The Biggest Adjustments Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks Need to Make
The Chicago Blackhawks are no longer feeling the glow of a triple-overtime win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
On the contrary, the Blackhawks have ceded control of the series to the underdog Boston Bruins. Boston head coach Claude Julien made a significant adjustment when he put Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin on the same line in Game 2. From that point forward, the Bruins have outscored the Blackhawks 4-0 in the series and taken a 2-1 lead.
Now it's Joel Quenneville's turn to make adjustments. The Blackhawks are down by just one game in this series. Should they find a way to take Game 4, Chicago will regain home-ice advantage.
Here's a look at the adjustments the Blackhawks should make to keep the Bruins from taking the series.
Put Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp on the Same Line
Look back the 11:22 mark of the first period of Game 2 between the Hawks and Bruins. That's the instant that Patrick Sharp whipped a wrist shot past Tuukka Rask from near the right faceoff circle. The Blackhawks have not scored a goal since.
Certainly, the Bruins have a game-changing defensive scheme led by Rask, defenseman Zdeno Chara and center Patrice "The Thief" Bergeron (so nicknamed for his propensity at winning faceoffs).
But the Blackhawks have speed and firepower. It's time for Quenneville to put maximum pressure on Boston's defense by teaming up center Jonathan Toews with Sharp and Patrick Kane on the same line.
The Blackhawks have been scoreless for the past 122:26, and it's time to make this line adjustment.
Attack the Bruins' Defensive Spacing
The Bruins have been quite successful at blocking shots in this series. In their Game 3 victory at TD Garden, the Bruins were credited with 17 blocked shots to the Blackhawks' seven.
One of the reasons the Bruins can block shots is that the defensemen stay in their lanes. The Bruins are giving the Blackhawks some areas in the center of the offensive zone to attack (video above, 0:48 mark).
The Blackhawks are starting most of their plays on the outside and firing away. They have to get closer to the middle and make their shots tougher for Rask to stop.
Activate the Defense
In the first period of Game 3, the Blackhawks went on the power play twice. On one of those occasions, defenseman Duncan Keith came in from his position on the left point and had a clear shot at the goal.
Instead of stepping into his shot and rocketing a blast at the Bruins net, Keith tried to make the perfect pass to Jonathan Toews. If Toews had received the puck cleanly, it almost certainly would have been a goal. Unfortunately, he was unable to control the puck.
But it was one of the few instances when the Blackhawks defense stepped up and got involved in an offensive play. This has to happen on a regular basis.
Whether it's Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson or Johnny Oduya (who scored in Game 1), the Blackhawks need to activate their defense and join the attack.
Increase the Battle Level
It's a given that the Boston Bruins are a big, strong, nasty team.
Chara is not going to race into the corner for the puck and let the Blackhawks have it. Dennis Seidenberg won't go behind the net and let a forward just take possession. Bergeron is not going to let players like Toews and Kane skate around the ice with complete freedom.
It's up to the Blackhawks to make this happen. They have to increase their battle level. Chara and Seidenberg will take the body, but it's time for the Blackhawks to take it right back.
Bergeron may blanket the Blackhawks' most dangerous players, but it's time for them to take evasive maneuvers to get away.
Quenneville said that his team has to earn more goal scoring chances, according to The Washington Post.
"It's hard to get A-plus chances," Quenneville told reporter in Boston on Monday night. "You have to manufacture the kind of ugly goals, tip screens, deflections. The frequency of having high-quality chances in this series at both ends has not been there."
Get the Puck Behind the Net
Rask is playing too well for the Blackhawks to make it as easy as they did in Game 3.
Rask stopped all 28 shots he faced in the 2-0 victory and few of them were of the spectacular variety. If it's possible to have a routine Stanley Cup Final shutout, Rask had one.
One of the reasons for that is the Blackhawks kept the puck in front of Rask throughout much of the game. He was allowed to focus on the puck without leaving his comfort zone.
However, if the Hawks take the puck behind the goal line and make Rask find it, it's much harder for the goalie to keep his line as he searches for the puck. It's not that he won't make the save, but he may give up a rebound or two.
That could create the scoring opportunities that have been missing for the better part of two games.
Better Performance in the Faceoff Circle
The Blackhawks were beaten decisively in the faceoff circle by the Bruins in Game 3.
They lost 40 of 56 faceoffs, a fact that has to be embarrassing for Quenneville and his centers. Bergeron, the best faceoff man in the league during the regular season and playoffs, was at his best, winning 24 of 28 faceoffs.
The Blackhawks can't let that happen again. Their poor performance on the power play (0-for-5) was directly related to their inability to control the puck on the draws.
"Two areas we weren't effective in last night were the power play and the faceoff circle," Quenneville said during Tuesday's media session.
"Bergeron had one of those nights that you like to have in a career. I think across the board, we've been watching the group of centermen here, digesting it, dissecting it, knowing we have to be better as well."