Thursday's loss featured plenty of failures on the part of the Blackhawks as they fell to the Anaheim Ducks for the first time on home ice this postseason, but as the team looks forward, we’re going to do the same. Here's a look at which players will need to step up their game as the Hawks try to even up the series.
The Blackhawks are a team that generally prides itself on shot suppression and solid defense, but at other times, they need a goaltender to step up and deliver a big win for them. This is definitely one of those times, and Crawford will be the man assigned with the task of helping them win in Game 4.
Crawford has been largely solid in this series, but in Thursday’s game he did make one key mistake. On Simon Despres’ goal in the second period, Crawford was slow to kick across in the crease as he followed the puck, and as a result it snuck past him and ultimately proved to be the game-winner for the Ducks.
When Crawford has those kinds of lapses, he generally bounces back stronger than ever, and that’s exactly what the Hawks will need from him on Saturday.
Sharp received a bit of unwelcome news Thursday night as he was placed onto a newly-configured third line, and the results speak for themselves as he was once again held without a point and only managed three shots on goal in the losing effort for the Blackhawks.
That game was the third in a row that Sharp hasn’t picked up a point in the postseason, and his lack of scoring is affecting the rest of the Blackhawks as well. Anaheim may not be able to dictate line matchups off of face-offs, but in the flow of play, they are able to load up their defensive groups against the top two lines because Sharp’s line hasn’t been able to put together production worthy of concern.
That has to change on Saturday night, and Sharp is going to have to be the driving force. He is capable of peppering goaltenders with shots from all over the ice, and he has to be the one taking initiative and leading the Hawks’ bottom-six in this contest.
It was assumed that Toews was going to be blessed with easier matchups and more space on the ice as the Blackhawks got control of final line change in the series, but Game 3 was anything but kind to the Hawks’ captain, as he managed just two shots on goal and was a big part of the reason why the Hawks’ power play was so powerless in the loss.
Simply put, that lack of production has got to change for Toews as he moves forward in this series. The Blackhawks are a much better team when he’s producing and able to command attention on offense, and he needs to step up his game in a big way on Saturday.