If you would have told me that the Chicago Blackhawks would be going to Philadelphia with a 2-0 series lead without a single point from Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, I probably would have called you crazy.
But that’s exactly what this team has done. In Game 1 the Blackhawks got three goals from it’s second line and three goals from its third line. In Game 2 the Hawks got one goal from the second line, and one goal from the fourth line, do you notice something odd about this scenario? Prior to Dustin Byfuglien’s second period assist in yesterday’s game, the Chicago Blackhawks first line had a combined zero points. Yes, you read that right zero points.
So why is the Blackhawks main scoring line struggling? Its a combination of the Flyer’s playing very good defense, and big #20 Chris Pronger. While one could say that Pronger has been getting away with everything short of murder on Dustin Byfuglien, he has done what the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks could not do..shut down Byfuglien. The biggest question Hawks fans should be asking is, what can the team do to get this line going?
One thing the team could do is do some line juggling and put Marian Hossa or Troy Brouwer on the first line. If Hossa were to move up, it would shuffle Patrick Kane down to the second line where he hopefully get some open looks. In the second scenario Brouwer moves up to the first line, and Big Buff goes down to the second line. This move would force Peter Laviolette to make a choice, keep Pronger on the Toews line thus letting Byfuglien have free roam of the ice, or match this move and put Pronger on the second line, which would then open up opportunities for Toews and Kane.
While both of these situations could play out, I think it would be better served to draw up a game plan to neutralize Chris Pronger. Coming into this series everyone knew Byfuglien would try getting to the front of the net, and we all knew Pronger would be there waiting for If Coach Quenneville really wanted to throw the Flyers for a loop, why not try to skate Byfuglien out to the slot a bit and try to get opportunities that way. If this were to happen Pronger would not be able to get away with the cross checks and slashes, while also opening up the ice for the wingers and point shots.
Looking ahead to Game 3 the Hawks must avoid a repeat performance of yesterday’s third period. In that period that hawks got out shot 15-4 and could not sustain any type of offensive zone pressure. While you could look at from a glass half full view and say they relaxed with a 2 goal lead, it simply should not happen. This team is far to good to just let off the pedal and keep a team in the game, especially one that has shown the ability to come back from those type of deficits. The Hawks looked lost and over matched in that period, and were lucky to survive it with the lead.
The reason the Hawks were able to survive rest’s on one man’s shoulders, Antti Niemi. If it were not for his ability to make key save after key save in the third period we could very well be talking about a 1-1 series right now. Chicago has to find a way to keep the pressure off of Niemi, becuase while he has stood on his head time and time again, you can not expect him to keep it up.
Niemi_No_No’s Three Keys to the Game:
Energy: The Blackhawks must come out and match the Flyer’s energy. The Wachovia Center will be rocking tomorrow night and the Hawks must take the crowd out of it early. The Hawks have played great hockey on the road, and they must keep it up if they want to win Game 3.
Clean Up Rebounds: One reason the Flyers got so many goals in Game 1 was because of loose pucks in front of the net. In Game 2 we saw the Hawks come in and clean them out before the Flyers could get to them. If the Hawks want to keep this a low scoring game, they have to take out the trash.
Net Presence: Ahh yes my favorite key to the game. The very first goal of Game 2 came off of excellent net presence and hustle by Marian Hossa, who beat his man to the inside and tapped in a rebound. The Flyers had an excellent strategy in Game 2, throw pucks on net and hope for a rebound. Its something the Blackhawks should implore as well, as we all saw what happened to Michael Leighton after he gave up that goal.