Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Keys to Evening Up the Series vs. St. Louis Blues
The Chicago Blackhawks are in need of a win Saturday to even up their Western Conference first-round series with the St. Louis Blues. Following a heartbreaking triple-overtime defeat, coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks would love to level the playing field before heading home.
Coming back to Chicago in a 2-0 hole wouldn't mean an end to the series. However, it would cast a certain amount of desperation on the club if the Blues hold serve at the Scottrade Center on Saturday afternoon.
St. Louis is going to pick up the services of injured players T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund later in the series. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is holding those potential trump cards in his pocket. A full-strength St. Louis lineup would increase the degree of difficulty for the 'Hawks.
Here are some keys for Chicago to swipe Game 2 in the series from the Blues.
1. Get off to a Quick Start
A lot of hockey was played Thursday night in Game 1. A 3:00 p.m. ET puck drop is going to favor the team that can shake off more than 40 minutes of extra hockey in the opener and come out fresh Saturday.
'Hawks coach Joel Quenneville is likely to send out the same lineup for Game 2. Chicago needs to come out ready to throw a fast pace at the Blues from the start. Getting the contest's first goal would also help put the Blues on their heels.
2. Make Blues' Penalties Sting Via the Scoreboard
The Blackhawks converted a power-play opportunity in what was a wild opening first period Thursday. However, they squandered the man advantage in each of the first two overtimes.
Game 1 was a hard-hitting affair with both teams delivering some bone-crunchers. The Blues open themselves to penalties when they get physical with Chicago. The 'Hawks need to make St. Louis pay for such infractions in the form of rubber hitting twine.
3. Handle the Blues Forecheck
St. Louis is going to come at the 'Hawks in similar fashion to Game 1, especially if the Blues are down late. On Thursday night, Chicago eventually wilted in the face of the pressure and committed a turnover that sent the game into overtime.
Handling the St. Louis forecheck is a 60-minute (and often longer) job. Relying solely on stretch passes to relieve the pressure may result in scoring chances. It also leads to a lot of icing calls and defensive-zone draws.
The Blackhawks have to be patient, roll up their sleeves and break out of the defensive zone with numbers to take command of Game 2.
4. Don't Get Sucked into a Street Fight
This is a tough one. Chicago did a nice job of matching the Blues on the physical side within the flow of the game for most of Game 1. That has to continue.
When Patrick Sharp lost his cool and retaliated to chippy play, he landed in the penalty box after he cross-checked Kevin Shattenkirk. The 'Hawks killed all four penalties Thursday to their credit, but getting drawn into mucking it up with St. Louis plays right into the hands of the Blues.
The Blackhawks shouldn't shy away from contact by any means. They just can't let the search for players to hit slacken the pace of the contest or take them away from their game plan.
5. Take It to the Blues Late
The owners of a 3-2 advantage for most of the last two periods on Thursday, the 'Hawks definitely sat back a bit and tried to absorb the Blues' late push. It didn't work out well.
Chicago was at its most dominant in the middle of Game 1 when the Blackhawks picked up the pace and took the action into the St. Louis zone. The Blues were limited to three shots in the second period.
Derek Roy and Jaden Schwartz tied the contest with one minutes, 45 seconds remaining as Chicago attempted to hang on. Fully retreating into a defensive shell and letting St. Louis pound away could result in another blown lead in the final minutes.