After Game 2, much of the criticism of the Chicago Blackhawks’ play centered around their lack of defensive zone discipline, as well as the sloppy nature of their offensive attack.
After Game 3, however, the narrative has shifted a bit. Yes, the play of Blackhawks stars like Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa has been called into question, and head coach Joel Quenneville recognized that when he put Patrick Sharp onto the wing with those two in place of Brandon Saad.
What has to be more concerning for the Blackhawks, however, is just how inept they have been in the faceoff circle in this series. Both teams play games that are predicated on a puck possession type of game, and even though the Hawks did a better job of that in Game 3, they still were unable to win a majority of the draws, and it cost them in the contest.
For example, the first goal of the hockey game, scored on a nifty deke by Detroit winger Damien Brunner, came as a direct result of the Hawks losing an offensive zone faceoff. On the play, the puck trickled to the near side boards off the draw, but there wasn’t a Blackhawk there to collect it, much less contest it.
That Blackhawk who was nearest the puck and likely should have pinched in on it was Nick Leddy, but he didn’t move an inch from his spot at the blue line, so by the time the Wings collected the puck, Brunner had already burst up the ice and the Wings were skating at full stride, blowing by Leddy and scoring an easy goal.
That isn’t the only time in the series that a lost faceoff has hurt the Blackhawks, either. In Game 2 of the series, the Hawks lost an offensive zone faceoff and defenseman Brent Seabrook tried to chip the puck in, rather than trying to go more forcefully at the puck and try to block the Detroit attacker, in this case Daniel Cleary, from getting a clean run up the ice. The play resulted in a 3-on-2 for the Wings, with Valtteri Filppula eventually scoring a diving goal to ice the game for the Wings.
So which Blackhawk needs to improve on their faceoff numbers? Well…..all of them:
Dave Bolland and Marcus Kruger have taken a similar amount of draws in the second round series, but where Bolland has actually managed to win nearly half of them, Kruger is astonishingly bad. Quenneville was even still using Kruger in the dot with Michal Handzus on the ice until the third period, meaning that he was either ignorant of these numbers or he doesn’t take them seriously. In either case, the goals given up by the Hawks in this series off of lost faceoffs dictate that something needs to be done about it, and soon.
Even Toews, who was winning at an over 60% clip against the Minnesota Wild in the first round, has been losing a majority of his faceoffs. The Hawks captain simply has to do a better job of obtaining possession for his team if Chicago has aspirations of getting back into the series, because if he doesn’t, then the Hawks might be staring down the barrel at a 3-1 deficit heading back to the Windy City over the weekend.