The Chicago Blackhawks can advance to the Stanley Cup Final with a victory Saturday night against the Los Angeles Kings at the United Center in Chicago.
The Blackhawks secured a 3 – 1 series lead on Thursday night in LA without Duncan Keith, Chicago’s ice time leader. Keith received a one-game suspension after Tuesday’s game in LA for a high-stick to Jeff Carter’s face, resulting in twenty stitches. As a result, Sheldon Brookbank was given the nod and the defensive lines were juggled – and they were juggled very well. Take a look at this infographic courtesy of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Defense has been a big part of Chicago’s shutting down of LA, but the offensive efforts of Bryan Bickell should not go unnoticed. Bickell is tied with winger Patrick Sharp for 2nd in goals (8), behind only Boston’s David Krejci (9). His ability to get in front of the net and crash the crease has earned him a spot on Chicago’s top line.
Patrick Kane may not have scored as many goals as some thought he would by this time in the postseason, but he is tied for third on the team with Bickell in points (11), most assists. The two sit behind Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa (14 points each) on the Blackhawks. Together, these four make for some added precaution from opponents and will be dangerous for LA in Game 5 at the United Center.
In Game 4 Thursday night, forechecking and passing were the keys to a Chicago victory. Forechecking was successful two-fold: escaping the LA forecheck unscathed and forechecking hard in the neutral zone to prevent a sustained LA attack. The Chicago neutral zone and forecheck was especially successful in the third period, allowing LA only two shots on-goal through the final 20 minutes of play.
Saturday night’s contest could allow Chicago to advance to the Stanley Cup Final or LA could stay alive for another night. Chicago will have to treat Game 5 like it’s a Game 7 situation. Just two weeks ago, Chicago found itself down 3 – 1 in the series to Detroit, only to win it in overtime of Game 7 to advance. LA has the skill and talent to give the Blackhawks a run for their money so Chicago has to stay focused in order to advance.
Opening faceoff is at 7:00 p.m. CT and can be seen on NBC Sports Network.