X's and O's: Hawks-Wings Series: A Tale of Two Point Shots

Ken YongContributor IMay 22, 2009

DENVER - MARCH 04:  Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings takes a shot against the Colorado Avalanche during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on March 4, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Red Wings defeated the Avalanche 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Western Conference Finals series shifts to Chicago tonight, with the Blackhawks looking to find some puck luck in the confines of the United Centre.

The Red Wings have been—as usual—the dominant team in the series, dictating much of the play, and putting the Blackhawks in a defensive posture. They've done it through tenacious forechecking from all four lines, and an extreme attention to detail.

But there's hope for Blackhawks fans. Their team hasn't exactly been run out of Motown. They've shown flashes, and they continue to be impressively resilient. So with that in mind, let's take a look at a couple things the Hawks can do to improve their chances coming back home.

Shoot Smart, Not Hard

Though it's hard to compare any defense when the Lidstrom factor is in play, Chicago's D-men are (arguably) a match for Detroit's when it comes to mobility and puck movement.

Where they are out of their depth, it's in consistently executing the simple plays that lead to goals, and more importantly, reduce the risk of goals against.

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This is illustrated perfectly by the shot selection of the Blackhawks' D-corps.

Blackhawks defensemen have been trying to shoot howitzers at Osgood, hoping to power the puck past him. And predictably, this is leading to easy saves and missed shots that careen out of the zone, and transition offense for the Red Wings who absolutely live off of these kinds of turnovers.

Contrast this with the Red Wings more methodical approach. They put all their energy in to what seems like their special, secret mantra: Get the puck on net. Rafalski's game two floater was a perfect example of smart shooting from the point.

If Chicago is to be successful in this series, they're going to need to take a page out of Detroit's playbook and make more thoughtful decisions from the point.

Down Low A-Go-Go

Blackhawks fan's new motto: If it walks like a Duck, and talks like a Duck, it must be a Blackhawk.

The Anaheim Ducks had success bringing the play down low against Detroit. They had the size and skill to win the board battles, and their defensemen were able to read the play well enough that the Wings couldn't generate any fast break chances.

They were able to bring the Wings to within one goal of elimination.

The Hawks have the personnel to win the board battles, and if they combine that with smarter point play, they can have the same success. Mitigating two of the Wings major defensive advantages—their incredible stick checking, and their ability to clog cross ice passing lanes—would be a huge plus for the Hawk's chances.

There are challenges with this as well, however. The Wings are as good as it gets at posting a high man for a fast break out once a board battle is won. The Chicago defensemen will need to be alert to ensure they aren't passed through.