Blackhawks need to clean up their game as series shifts to Chicago
The Blackhawks open their home games at the United Center already in a 0-2 hole.
The worst part about that? They could be headed home up 2-0. The Blackhawks gave up the tying goal in both games in the dying moments of the third period: with less than two minutes on the clock in Game 1, and just a handful of seconds left in Game 2. In both games, the Blues made the best of overtime, came away with the wins.
Corey Crawford's play in Game 1 was outstanding, but he took the blame for Game 2, stating, "It’s pretty much not acceptable. We’re not going to win if I’m going to play like that. I just have to be better" - an opinion echoed by his coach.
To make things worse, Brent Seabrook made an absolutely terrible, dirty play away from the puck in Game 2: nailing Blues captain David Backes illegally in the head, which injured Backes, and resulted in a 3-game suspension for the Blackhawks' blueliner. As half of Chicago's top defensive pair, Seabrook's loss will definitely be felt. It is the first suspension in his career.
The Blues said in post-game interviews that the loss of their captain gave them the motivation to finish off the game with a win; and that kind of motivation will likely carry into Game 3 and beyond.
In addition to the Seabrook hit, Bryan Bickell took a penalty earlier in the game, going knee-to-knee versus forward Vladimir Sobotka - a move that was not appreciated by the Blues. After the game, coach Ken Hitchcock said he felt Bickell had done the same move earlier on Alex Pietrangelo.
Relations between these two teams have never been warm and fuzzy. Over the past few seasons, Chicago fans have often felt that their team has gotten manhandled by the Blues. But so far in this series, the Blackhawks have been the ones erring on the side of injury.
In other words: the Blackhawks aren't playing their style of hockey. They're not playing smart, they've had defensive lapses that have led directly to goals, Corey Crawford has let in some soft and/or badly timed goals, and to put icing on the cake thus far, Coach Quenneville lost his cool on the bench, grabbed his crotch when arguing against a call, and got fined $25K as a result.
There's no explanation for it. Chicago showed they can beat the Blues this season; but they haven't been able to get the job done so far this series. The Blues are beating them in possession stats, including PDO.
Going into the United Center, the Blackhawks will need to focus on the basics of their game: playing responsible, smart, focused hockey. Forget the after-the-whistle nonsense. They need to stop playing a phsyical like the Blues, and focus on playing like the Blackhawks. They need to stay out of the penalty box.
And they have to do it without Brent Seabrook, who has been an important part of Chicago's successful playoff runs.
OTHER BLACKHAWKS UPDATES
- Defenseman Klas Dahlbeck and goalie Jason LaBarbera were recalled from the IceHogs as Black Aces for Chicago.
- The Rockford IceHogs, the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, announced their season awards before their final home game on Saturday night:
Most Valuable Player: Jeremy Morin
Best Defensemen: Adam Clendening and Klas Dahlbeck
Rookie of the Year: Garret Ross
Heavy Hitter Award: Brandon Mashinter
Unsung Hero Award: Wade Brookbank
Most Improved Player for 2013-14: Terry Broadhurst
Rockford's Man of the Year: Pat Mullane