CHICAGO, IL - MAY 21: Ben Smith #28 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates with teammates after his goal against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period in Game Two of the Western Conference Final during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center on May 21, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Pretty much every article and tweet written about the Chicago Blackhawks’ 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night is going to focus on the horrendous third period effort that the Hawks put forth (or the tremendous third period that the Kings had), but the reality of the situation is that there were some players who looked really good in the first two periods of the game.
In a bit of a departure for us, we’re going to do our Three Stars column, but we are going to throw out third period miscues from the equation and focus on the good that some of these players did.
Third Star: Johnny Oduya
In the second period, the Blackhawks were leading 1-0, but they were just coming off of an unsuccessful power play which threatened to swing momentum in favor of the Kings.
Fortunately for Chicago, Oduya stepped in and helped save the day. Seeing that both teams were in the midst of line changes, Oduya fired a tremendous stretch pass all the way up the ice toward Ben Smith. Brandon Bollig ended up touching it, but Smith still picked it up, skated it into the zone, and blasted it past Jonathan Quick to make it a 2-0 game.
It was an excellent pass by Oduya that showcased his tremendous ice vision, and even though it didn’t end up mattering as an insurance goal, at the time it was one of the key moments of the game.
Second Star: Nick Leddy
Leddy will take a lot of heat, and rightfully so, for his undisciplined play on the Kings’ fourth goal (Leddy, along with Michal Rozsival and everyone else in a red sweater, assumed that the officials were going to blow a play dead for a puck hitting the netting behind the goal, but it didn’t), but before that, he had one of the most exciting plays of the evening for the Blackhawks.
With the team trying to finally punish the Kings on their third power play of the first period, Leddy jumped onto the ice as the Kings were finishing off a 3-on-2 odd-man rush while short-handed. Leddy grabbed a pass in stride, flew into the offensive zone, and lifted a gorgeous backhanded shot past Quick and into the top shelf of the net to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
It was a very athletic play, and it was one that few defensemen in the league would be able to pull off. Leddy did it in style, and he was instrumental in getting some momentum into the Blackhawks’ favor.
First Star: Ben Smith
Smith has gotten a lot of praise for his play at both ends of the ice, but it was his offensive skills that were most on display in this one.
Starting out on the fourth line and slowly getting bumped up as the game progressed, Smith put three shots on net in the game, and one of them was the Hawks’ second goal of the contest. His shot past Quick in the second period really solidified the momentum that Chicago then carried throughout the frame, and he really affected the game every time he was on the ice in this one.
There’s no telling where Smith will be skating when Game 3 begins on Saturday night, but one thing is for certain: he has definitely solidified his spot in the lineup, and he is really earning strong consideration for a contract extension after the season.