Most fans would be thrilled if someone told them that their favorite team would hold a 2-0 lead in a 7 game series, heading back to home ice. If you are a Chicago Blackhawk fan this is probably the worst case scenario.
You see the Blackhawks are riding a 7 game road winning streak, and have looked frazzled and lost at home. The issue has become so bad that team officials will have the team stay in a hotel the day of the game. Why are team officials doing this? Well its quite simple. On road trips the team has a chance to bond and really gel off the ice, they do things as a team, and have a real connection. When the team goes home, they go their separate ways, and only have practices to get that cohesiveness back. This may be a way for the Hawks to keep their momentum heading home.
While this plan seems like it has good intentions the only way this team is going to get out of its home ice funk is if they keep it simple. Do away with the drop passes, and trying to force it into the offensive zone. Go back to the way they play on the road, with simple tape to tape passes and dumping it in if there is no alley. Do not let the home fans dictate the style. The majority of us want to see the team play the high flying thrilling offense that we have come to know and love. The reality off it is the playoffs are a different animal. The thrilling plays are replaced with hard nosed dump and chase and grinding it out, something this team thrives on away from the United Center.
If we learned anything from the Montreal Canadiens/Philadelphia Flyer Game, it is that a 2-0 series lead is not insurmountable, and all it takes is for one bad game by your solid goalie to let a team back into it. The Hawks need to come out with the same energy Montreal displayed today, take an early lead, and keep the Sharks from teeing off on Niemi.
With that being said, here are my three keys to a Chicago Blackhawk win:
Set the tempo, and get the lines you want:
Coach Q has last change. He has shown a very good ability to get the right lines at the right times on the road, lets hope he can carry this over to home ice. Tempo is everything for this team, if they can force you to play their style of hockey, they will run laps around you.
Dave Bolland’s aggravating tactics:
Dave Bolland is in Joe Thornton’s head. Thornton can deny it all he wants, but the slash late in the third period of Game 2 says otherwise. So far Bolland and co. have kept the Shark Line quiet with tactics and hard nosed hockey.
Leave the cuteness at the hotel:
I touched on this earlier in the article, but this team must keep it simple. If they try to force the puck and get away from the basics they will lose. The Sharks are too talented of a team to try high school tactics on, and will make you pay for any unneeded mistake.
Net Presence (Bonus Key):
This should be a permanent key for this team. Dustin Byfuglien is at his best in front of the goalie, and with Johnathan Toews in the same area this team is deadly. Fire pucks from the point, and from the face off dots and let the guys up front tap in the rebounds. Make Nabakov play his best game, and do not let him see pucks coming.
The Hawks can either put the dagger through San Jose’s heart, or they can give them new life. Regardless of the outcome I will be back following the final horn of Game 3 to share my game review.