After a thrilling Game 1, the Chicago Blackhawks and San Jose Sharks are on pace to prove that the hype leading up to this game was well worth it. Game 1
saw each team take 40 or more shots, and each team saw their goalies stand on their heads to keep it a low scoring affair. Antti Niemi played arguably his best game of his young career allowing 1 goal on 45 shots. The lone goal came off of the stick of Jason Demers, who fired a wrist shot from Niemi’s left that hit off of Duncan Keith’s rear end to beat Niemi just over his stick side.
So what do the Hawks need to do in Game 2 to take a 2-0 Series lead? It starts on the defense, Chicago needs to make the Sharks work to get into the defensive zone. There is no way the Hawks can allow Niemi to face 40+ shots again. Yes, Niemi played outstanding but you can not expect him to continue that pace up. One thing that was troubling was the number of times there was a Shark sitting by himself off to left or right of the goal. The Hawks must keep an eye out for that in Game 2 or else you may see a few easy tap in goals.
On the offensive side of the puck Chicago must keep it simple. This team has a knack for trying to be cute and forgetting the basics. Continue the dump and chase method if there is nothing there. The cycle game had the Sharks reeling in Game 1, so expect the Hawks to do a lot more of that in Game 2. I would like to see a better net presence in this game. The net presence they showed in the Vancouver series was outstanding and forced Louongo to work for every save. In Game 1, Nabakov had a lot of easy saves and saw the majority of the pucks coming his way. An interesting note is both Chicago goals came with no screen thru the five hole.
Penalties will be another major factor in this game. The Hawks had 5 penalties in the first game and were able to kill off 4. With one of the best PK units in the league, it usually would not be a big issue, but you can not give the Sharks so many power play’s because eventually they will wear you down and pick you apart.
With that being said here our my three keys to the game:
Keep the pressure off of Niemi. Make San Jose earn their shots.
Net Presence. Put bodies in front of Nabakov.
Wear the Sharks out. Use the speed and youth to keep the pressure on San Jose for 60 minutes.
In my opinion this game can go either way, both of these teams are so evenly matched that its going to come down to who can keep their mistakes and penalties to a minimum.