Hockey days are numbered for the Blackhawks in Chicago, and if something isn't done quickly, their right to call themselves the "Defending Champions" will be convincingly revoked.
Down three games to none in their first round matchup with top-seeded Vancouver, it's win or go home for the Chicago Blackhawks. They aren't as deep as the Canucks, and the Blackhawks are certainly not as big as the mighty top seed. But one thing is for certain, never count out the heart of a champion.
It may be crazy to think that the Blackhawks can pull off the improbable and not only oust the top-seed in the Western Conference, but do it in four consecutive games. Don't tell that to the Philadelphia Flyers fans and certainly don't even mention it around a Boston Bruins supporter.
Here are four keys to winning four straight games for the Chicago Blackhawks.
Dave Bolland is back in the lineup for Chicago after missing more than a month with lingering concussion symptoms.
Known as the "greyhound' and the "rat," the insertion of Bolland into the mix instantly makes Chicago tougher and more aggressive. It's hard to tell what kind of impact Bolland will have, especially when his first game back could be his team's last game of the season.
Evidence shows that the inclusion of Bolland might be exactly what the doctor ordered for the revival of the Chicago Blackhawks. Last year, Bolland was able to subdue the Sedin twins' efforts in the second round, and completely frustrated San Jose captain Joe Thornton in the Western Conference Finals en route to a sweep of the Sharks.
Did you hear that, a sweep. That's exactly what the Blackhawks need to do at this point, sweep the NHL's best team. Luckily, Dave Bolland knows how to sweep opponents.
In any rivalry, momentum during a game plays a significant role in the outcome. In a playoff rivalry, momentum can win you a championship. What's the easiest way to create momentum? Score first.
The Blackhawks need to score first in each game remaining, a tall task given the netminder in Vancouver. It's obvious that the first team to score has a higher chance of winning the game, but the momentum created from the game's first goal can set the standard in the seats that evening.
The Madhouse on Madison can rock like no other arena on this planet, same with Rogers Arena in Vancouver. If the Blackhawks can get the Chicago crowd going early, the team will feed off of that energy. More importantly, if Chicago can extend the series back to Vancouver, it is a MUST to take that raucous hockey crowd out of the game before Vancouver takes you out of the playoffs.
Chicago has the firepower to score at will, but the same can be said about the Canucks. Maybe showing Roberto Luongo a few past playoff highlights will shake him up a bit.
Duncan Keith got Chicago on the board early in Game 3, but his lackluster performance so far this playoff season has Blackhawks fans wondering where the Norris Trophy Award winner disappeared to. Maybe his high ice-time numbers are starting to get to him, or maybe he is simply trying to do too much. Either way, everyone must step up.
Losing Brent Seabrook for Game 4 is a huge loss for Chicago, but his loss had no influence on Chicago's need to improve defensively. His loss just underlined it and hit the Bold button.
There have been way too many giveaways in Chicago's own end, way too many giveaways in the neutral zone and way too much overall confusion from a fan's perspective. Hustle has been lackluster due to the numerous icing calls that were negated by Vancouver's hustle. Over-passing on power-plays should never be an issue, but it seems like no one wants to shoot on Chicago's vaunted power-play. Everything needs to be better, and everyone needs to fill Seabrook's skates.
Brian Campbell is the best puck-handling defenseman Chicago has, and he needs to be more assertive in getting the puck and advancing it.
The defensive unit as a whole needs to get the puck to the net and irritate Luongo. This has been an issue in Chicago ever since Dustin Byfuglien was traded to Atlanta. If the remaining players cannot create any havoc in front of the goal, the Blackhawks don't deserve to see another game.
This one is plain and simple. Shoot the puck.
The Blackhawks have been getting a decent number of shots on net against the Vancouver Canucks, but watching them pass on numerous shot opportunities to dump the puck or make a bad pass is slowly eating away at my livelihood.
Memo to the Chicago Blackhawks—no shot is a bad shot.
Seeing potential scoring opportunities passed on is something I have a hard time tolerating. Why dump the puck that can lead to a change in possession? Why pass on a shot to give someone else the decision whether to shoot? It could be a part of the game plan, or the flow of the game, or simply because lines need to change, but all excuses are out the window.
Put the pressure on Luongo. Make him make the save, don't try to be cute and confuse him/yourself. Get the puck on net. It's do or die time for Chicago, let's create some momentum...now.