X's And O'S: Small Changes Make Big Difference in Hawks-'Nucks Series

Ken YongContributor IMay 10, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 05:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Chicago Blackhawks fights with Willie Mitchell #8 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 5, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The best thing about playoff hockey? The Canes' Ice Girls.

The second best thing about playoff hockey? In a best of seven series, teams can make small adjustments that make a big, big impact.

Here we'll take a look at a couple small adjustments the Hawks made that has helped them retake control of their series against the Canucks.

Finding the Lanes

The Canucks have played extremely aggressive defense throughout their playoff run, and early in the series it was working for them. In response, the Hawks have worked a some new elements in to their offensive game.

Most noticeably, they're utilizing the diagonal cross seam pass from the side boards to the weak side defence-man, which opens up a shooting lane. They killed the Canucks on this numerous times, and it led directly to the first goal of the game by Byfuglien.

Link to the first goal by Byfuglienβ€”Notice the amount of space through the middle of the ice. Versteeg is able to make a clean, unchallenged pass all the way across the ice.

If you're a Canucks fan, you're hoping that Alain Vigneault has recognized this and will tell his strong side support man (Edler in the video) to be a little less aggressive, and a little more aware of that cross seam pass.

Also, his weak side forward (Pyatt) needs to be higher up on the play to challenge the point shot. If they play it correctly, they can stop that cross seam pass, and utilize their good shot blocking to mitigate the threat from the points.

Rebounds, Rebounds, Rebounds

The Hawks have realized they can generate rebounds off Luongo by shooting from the bottom of the face-off circle.

Traditionally this isn't a high percentage place to shoot from, but when you're facing a goalie that sucks the puck in as well as Luongo, and a defence that collapses so well in front of the net, a few shots from those areas will open up the zone over time, and put a little bit of scramble in to the Canucks usually very composed own zone play.

How the Canucks Can Win

If the Canucks have any hope of taking this series, they're going to need to respond to these adjustments, first by recognizing the cross seam pass, and second, by making sure they are pinning the Hawks to the boards at any opportunity.

Those tough Canucks defencemen need to keep the likes of Kane, Versteeg, and Ladd flat on the ice so they don't get the opportunity to walk out of the corner and throw those shots on net.

Right now Quenneville and the Hawks are a step ahead of the Canucks in the strategy game. We'll see what Vigneault has up his sleeves in Game Six.


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