Chicago looks to go back to LA with a comfortable series lead in Game 2 of back-to-back games in the Conference Finals against the Kings. The Blackhawks took Game 1 on Saturday afternoon in the Madhouse by a margin of 2 – 1.
A second period rally found Chicago registering two goals, surmounting a 1 goal deficit after a dismal first period in which Chicago was dominant. Chicago outshot LA 17 – 2 in the first period, despite a goal by Justin Williams. The Kings looked dreadful in the first period and spent most of the time defending Jonathon Quick. Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp scored as a direct result of something Chicago struggled with against Detroit.
Sharp’s goal was the direct result of a big rebound given up by Jonathon Quick in the center of the ice and Hossa deflected his goal off a point shot from Duncan Keith while supplying a screen. It seems that Chicago quickly corrected its difficulties from the previous round against Detroit, in which the Hawks simply could not get any sort of traffic in front of Jimmy Howard. All four lines have been able to get good pressure and traffic in front of Quick, something that Sharp knows is very important.
“[Quick’s] going to make those saves to the outside, [for us] it’s getting to the inside,” said Sharp. “Quick’s a good goalie; we try not to talk about him too much, just focus on what we can control out there and find a way to beat him.”
As great as the forward lines were for the Hawks Saturday afternoon, the defense was stellar. The work of Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson allowed Chicago to escape a tough LA forecheck cleanly. The Kings have an aggressive forecheck – it’s one of the reasons why they won the Stanley Cup last year. If Chicago can keep its composure in the face of Dustin Brown or Anze Kopitar barreling down the ice, the Hawks could focus mostly on Jonathon Quick.
Chicago’s other strength is the Penalty Kill, which was 2-2 Saturday afternoon at the Madhouse. However, a great PK does not tell the whole story – the Power Play can shift the momentum of a game even if a team does not score. Chicago is so good at killing that momentum altogether and not allowing a team to sustain any good pressure even after the PK has expired. It has frustrated teams all season long, and only failed once against Detroit in the postseason.
If Chicago wants to win tonight, they will have to:
- Sustain pressure and traffic in front of Quick
- Focus on puck possession and avoid poor turnovers forced by an aggressive defender on the forecheck
- Be aggressive in the Neutral Zone
Tonight’s game begins at 7 p.m. CT on NBCSN.