There has been plenty of talk surrounding the Original Six matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, and at no time has it been at a higher pitch than in the aftermath of the Hawks’ 4-1 Game 2 loss.
Whether the focus has been on the comments of Jonathan Toews about the officiating, the way that the Wings were able to stifle and beat the Hawks in Game 2, or the changes that head coach Joel Quenneville needed to make, the debates have been raging, and the Hawks have to try to put that cacophony behind them as they head to the Motor City Monday night.
So what are the keys for the Blackhawks to take care of business in Game 3?
Here are our three:
Do NOT Rise to Detroit’s Baiting
Pundits have rightly been pointing out throughout this series how the Red Wings play a similar puck possession and offensively heavy scheme to the Hawks, but they flat-out pushed Chicago around on Saturday. They were physical in the corners, not afraid to mix it up after whistles, and just looked like they wanted to assert their will early and often in the game.
For the Hawks, they need to maintain their composure, pure and simple. Guys like Dave Bolland lost their cool in Game 2, and despite the fact that the Chicago penalty killing unit was able to shut out the Wings’ power play, the fact remains that for many stretches of the game, the Hawks were having to play backed into a corner as opposed to trying to assert themselves offensively.
That cannot happen against a veteran team, and it’s even more so incumbent on the Blackhawks, who are no slouches themselves when it comes to playoff experience, to maintain their composure in Game 3. If they don’t, then look for Detroit to keep pressing buttons and trying to get Chicago off of their games.
Offensive Depth MUST Re-emerge
The Blackhawks only managed 20 shots in Game 2, and 11 of those came courtesy of the team’s first line. Yes, Patrick Kane and the second line generated the Hawks’ only goal of the game, but they failed to generate much push in the rest of the game. The third line was also deathly quiet, with Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw really not contributing much of anything and with Bolland spending plenty of time in the sin bin.
To counteract these challenges, Quenneville has reconfigured his lines to what they looked like for the majority of the season. Kane and Patrick Sharp have been reunited with Bolland, and the third line has been reunited as well, with Shaw centering Viktor Stalberg and Bickell.
If the Blackhawks are planning on being competitive in this game, then they are going to have to be able to generate offense throughout their lineup. With Detroit getting the benefit of last line change as the home team, Chicago has to be able to give the Wings more matchup problems, and they can’t do that if one line is responsible for over half of the team’s shot total.
Defense Needs to Play Smarter
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook both made costly errors in Game 2 of the series, but this was certainly out of character for a blue line corps that has been positively excellent this season.
Factor in the play all season of guys like Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya, and it’s no small wonder that this team won the Jennings and President’s Trophies.
With the Red Wings employing a similar style to that of the Blackhawks, it is crucial for the Hawks to make responsible and smart decisions on the defensive side of the puck. Every time a player tries to dive at Henrik Zetterberg, or gets a stick blade near the skates of Pavel Datsyuk, veteran snipers like them will take full advantage, and that will put the Blackhawks in a bad spot in a game that they’d really love to win.