Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Preview: 5 Things Needed from the Chicago Blackhawks
The Chicago Blackhawks go into Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final needing a win to even the series. Based on how things went Monday in Boston, the Blackhawks are going to have to raise their game a notch to gain equal footing heading back to Chicago.
The Blackhawks were blanked 2-0 in Game 3. Boston had Chicago's offense in check, dominated draws and currently holds the momentum heading into Wednesday's action.
How does Chicago get that momentum back?
Here are five things we need to see from the Blackhawks in Game 4.
1. Marian Hossa
After missing Game 3, Hossa is expected to be on the ice Wednesday. Joel Quenneville said that he expects Hossa to return from the upper-body injury that necessitated the emergency use of Ben Smith.
We don't know the severity of Hossa's injury. Quenneville is being as vague as he can about the events that led up to Smith coming down from the team box and suiting up.
Hossa was not on the ice for the morning skate Wednesday, according to a Twitter post by ESPNChicago.com. Jamal Mayers was skating in Hossa's place with Michal Handzus and Patrick Sharp.
Like Nathan Horton heading into Game 2, we don't know for sure if Hossa will play. We don't know how effective he will be if and when he does. Hossa's availability and effectiveness loom large for the Blackhawks.
2. Toews, Kane and Bickell
The line that finished off the Western Conference Final so well needs to reunite Wednesday night.
Jonathan Toews hasn't had the most glamorous postseason. However, I'll take my chances that pairing him with Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell will produce more than skating him with Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger.
At some point, Chicago's best has to take the game to Boston's best and put points on the board. Yes, Boston has defended Toews and Kane with stunning efficiency. The best play for the Blackhawks in situations like this has been to get their two young stars on the same line.
We need to see this in Game 4.
3. An Early Goal
This sounds ridiculous, but hey, the 'Hawks have just one goal in their last six periods and change. Chicago has to get to Tuukka Rask early and remove the aura of invincibility the Bruins goalie has generated in Boston's two victories.
Keep it simple, boys. A puck past Rask, greasy or otherwise, in the first ten minutes would be a sign of life from Chicago.
4. Traffic in Front of the Crease
Boston has taken the area in front of their net and locked it away from the Blackhawks for most of the series. They've also owned the middle of the ice in the defensive zone, for that matter.
Chicago has not fared well in generating second chances around the net. Rask has been stingy with rebounds. The Bruins defense has swept the crease clear too boot.
Bickell and the 'Hawks need to get to the net and stay there. This should lead to increased scoring opportunities. Chicago could also draw some penalties in the process, though the power play hasn't made Boston pay in this area.
Gaining a foothold in the crease is crucial to winning Game 4, though it won't be easy.
5. More Excellence from Corey Crawford
Since an offensive explosion can not be expected, Crawford is going to have to stand tall in net.
Crawford's play in Game 3 provided a measure of hope despite an inept power play and a night to forget in the faceoff circle. Crawford has given the 'Hawks a chance to win in each game of this series.
Crawford denied an early assault by Boston Wednesday and will have to do so again in Game 4. From there, the Blackhawks have to find a way to turn the tide. Be it a special teams goal or a putback of a rare rebound, Chicago needs to play like the desperate club that it is.