The Chicago Blackhawks have a 13-6 record in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but despite that winning mark are currently 0-3 in Game 3s over that time.
They will look to change that Monday night against the Boston Bruins, who tied the Stanley Cup Final with a 2-1 overtime victory on Saturday at the United Center.
That victory came in large part because of the way the Bruins kept up their physical pressure throughout the contest. They hit the Blackhawks at every opportunity, especially in the first period when they were outshot by Chicago 19-4, and it ended up paying dividends as the game wore on.
The Hawks began to try to pass the puck too quickly to avoid contact, and the Bruins also started winning more of the puck battles along the boards than they had in the first period.
The result was a sea change in the game, but it could have been overcome. The Hawks, as they have throughout the playoffs, didn’t play a complete 60 minute game against the Bruins, and it showed in the shot total area, as they only managed 15 shots in the final 53:48 of the contest.
In Game 1 of the series, the Hawks did the same thing, focusing on trying to match the Bruins’ physicality in the first period instead of trying to get their puck possession game going. As a result, they ended up trailing in the game 3-1 and only came back because their team speed started to frustrate the Bruins.
They have to do a better job in Game 3 of maintaining a consistent energy level. If they don’t they could be easily looking at a 2-1 series deficit after Monday night.
Part of the way they can have a more consistent effort level is if they stick to the game plan that they generally utilize on the road. In those games, the Hawks tend to simplify their game to a large degree, relying more on net traffic and tons of shots instead of slinging the puck around the perimeter and looking for the perfect lane to shoot through.
That thinking applies not only to their power play unit, but also to their even strength. The simpler tactics have led to a 3-4 record on the road during the postseason, which may not seem all that great but is a big part of the fact the Hawks have won two series by 4-1 counts in these playoffs.
Finally, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville is going to have to be careful with his line changeups that he likes to execute during games. In the past two contests, Bruins head coach Claude Julien has done an excellent job of dictating matchups, and he will have an even bigger advantage Monday since his homestanding Bruins will have the benefit of the last line change.
For those saying Quenneville should reunite Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the idea sounds great in theory, especially considering the amount of success the duo had in the last few games of the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately for the Hawks, the Bruins have shown that they can disrupt Toews’ game in much the same way that the Detroit Red Wings did in the second round, and therefore it could be a lost cause to even attempt to put Kane back onto the top line.
The only way that the switch would work, if Quenneville were to go in that direction, would be if Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp can play the way they did in the first period of Game 2. If they play like they did in the final three, and play without much intensity, then any line switches will fail to work.