Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Potential Heroes for Game 4 vs. St. Louis Blues

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IApril 23, 2014

Chicago Blackhawks: 5 Potential Heroes for Game 4 vs. St. Louis Blues

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    The Chicago Blackhawks got a big effort from goalie Corey Crawford to win Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round series with the St. Louis Blues. Chicago will be in search of additional heroes to help the Hawks pull even in Game 4 Wednesday night.

    St. Louis still leads the series 2-1 heading into action at the United Center Wednesday. Crawford stopped 34 shots, pacing Chicago to a 2-0 win despite the Blues offering a fierce push late in the contest.

    It is going to take a full team effort by the Blackhawks to make this a best-of-three affair. Drawing even with the Blues could include big performances by the following players.

1. Ben Smith

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    Coach Joel Quenneville may use Smith in a similar fashion as he did in Game 3. Smith, who normally toils on the Hawks' fourth line, centered Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp for stretches of the contest.

    Michal Handzus has been Quenneville's choice for that second-line center spot, mostly because of his prowess killing penalties. However, Handzus leaves something to be desired in five-on-five situations.

    Smith may receive more opportunities to spark the second line Wednesday night. He should be a player to keep an eye on if he continues to get more time between Sharp and Hossa. Smith's work ethic could result in a key goal...perhaps the game-winner.

2. Nick Leddy

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    Nick Leddy wasn't used a lot in the Game 3 win, but he could play a big part in a Chicago win Wednesday because of his skill set.

    Leddy has the ability to neutralize a strong St. Louis forecheck by skating the puck out of the defensive zone. He also could make a difference on the Hawks' second power-play unit. He assisted on Brent Seabrook's goal in the first game of the series.

    With Seabrook still out for Game 4, a big game from Leddy could tip the scales in favor of the Blackhawks.

3. Sheldon Brookbank

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    Brent Seabrook's suspension thrust Sheldon Brookbank bank into the defensive mix Monday. Brookbank paired with Duncan Keith for a good portion of Game 3 and played well in the absence of Keith's regular partner.

    Brookbank played some of his biggest minutes of the regular season in April when Johnny Oduya was out. He responded to the call in his first playoff appearance this spring with 14:32 of ice time.

    The defensive effort is going to be key for the Hawks to win Wednesday. That includes another solid night from Brookbank.

4. Patrick Kane

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    Patrick Kane has just a single goal in the first three games against St. Louis. That came on a stretch pass via the stick of captain Jonathan Toews in Game 1.

    Forecasting a big night for Kaner isn't exactly going out on a limb. He has 37 career points against the Blues. That ties his point production against Columbus as his most prolific in terms of opponents. In four games against St. Louis this season, Kane has two goals and four helpers.

    Kane is coming off of a knee injury suffered against the Blues that kept him out of the last 11 games of the regular season. Coach Joel Quenneville paired him up with Toews Monday night and will likely have the duo together Wednesday.

    Game 4 would be an outstanding time for Kane to click with Bryan Bickell and Toews to the tune of a multipoint evening.

5. Corey Crawford

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    Monday's hero could well be the force behind another Blackhawks victory in Game 4. Corey Crawford publicly called himself out after the two games in St. Louis and was Game 3's first star after posting his third career playoff shutout.

    Expecting back-to-back goose eggs for the Blues may lead to disappointment. However, Crawford kept the Hawks in the first two games of this series with some big saves and will likely have to be at the top of his game for Chicago to tie the series at two games apiece.

    If Crawford has a stretch in him where he can carry the Blackhawks on his back, this is the perfect series in which to do so.