The Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks have been engaged in a back and forth slugfest so far in the Western Conference Final, but the stakes are even higher on Monday night as the two teams battle with the series lead on the line.
The Blackhawks ended up securing that tie on Saturday night thanks to an Antoine Vermette goal in double overtime, but they can’t afford to rest on their laurels as Game 5 looms. The Ducks have only lost once at home during this postseason, and they will look to continue their dominance at the Honda Center as they attempt to take back control of the series.
With that in mind, we have three keys for the Blackhawks as they look to give themselves an opportunity to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago on Wednesday.
Third Line Dominance Must Continue on Road
In Game 4 of the series, the reunited third line of Teuvo Teravainen, Antoine Vermette, and Patrick Sharp had an excellent contest as Vermette scored the game-winning goal and his two wingers both did a great job of dictating the tempo of the game when they were on the ice.
With the Ducks getting back the advantage of final line change on home ice Monday night, it’s critical that the Blackhawks continue to get good production out of this group. Giving Bruce Boudreau another line to have to focus on can only mean good things for Chicago’s offense, and with the way these three played on Saturday, thinking they can have a repeat performance is not out of the question.
Quenneville Must Watch Defensive Usage in Game 5
With the two teams in this series playing nearly 17 total periods of hockey so far, the Blackhawks’ lack of depth on their blue line might start to become an issue the deeper the series goes.
It’s also about more than just large amounts of ice time, the Blackhawks’ top four defensemen are taking an inordinate amount of punishment in this series. Of the 220 hits that the Ducks have been credited with so far in this series, 107 of them have been directed at that group of Hawks’ blue liners, and that is a lot of punishment to take in that short amount of time.
With those factors in mind, Joel Quenneville is going to have to be careful with the way he deploys his defensemen in this game Monday. In most of the games of this series, the Hawks have made it a point to space out minutes as much as possible in the first two periods and then load up in the third period, and they would be well-advised to take that approach today.
Continue to Stay Out of the Sin Bin
After surrendering five power plays to the Ducks in Game 2, the Blackhawks have been a lot more disciplined of late, only giving Anaheim three power play chances over the last two games and in general cleaning up the sloppy play that had plagued them earlier in the series.
If the Blackhawks are going to be successful on Monday night, they will have to continue that trend. The Ducks are a team that is going to commit a high number of penalties because of the physical style with which they play, and the Hawks have to be smart in responding to that. Retaliation is always a no-no in those situations, and they’ve largely done a good job of avoiding taking the bait.