After day one of the extended two days of rest has passed and everyone has regrouped from Monday’s 3-1 loss, it’s time to turn our attention to Game 4. With the fans of Detroit smiling and Blackhawks fans biting down the last of their fingernails, let’s take a moment to discuss why it’s not time for the Blackhawks and their fans to hit the panic button just quite yet.
History Says Differently
In 2010, the #2 seeded Chicago Blackhawks played the #7 seeded Nashville Predators in the Conference Quarterfinals. In that series, the Hawks went down 2-1 in the first three games. In a similar scenario to the 2013 Conference Semifinals, the Hawks had their backs against the wall after playing three games. As you can see in the graphic above, the Hawks won Game 1 at home, followed by a loss at home and a loss on the road.
But This Isn’t the Same Team
That’s true, it’s not. It’s a better team. What do the Hawks have now that they didn’t have three years ago? Not one, but TWO phenomenal goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. Although we haven’t seen Emery so far this post season, we know what he is capable of and leave us without that “oh no, we have to rely on the backup” feeling.
In the 2010 Playoffs, Antti Niemi was THE goaltender for the Hawks during the post season. He played in 65 of 66 periods during the teams Stanley Cup run, with a GAA of 2.63. Crawford has gotten 8/8 starts so far this post season and so far he’s sporting a very solid 1.81 GAA and a save percentage of .932. Among the goaltenders still playing into May, Crawford is sporting the best GAA. Of course this doesn’t mean much when the Wings put more pucks in the net in a given game, but it does mean he’s still the foundation the Hawks need to turn this series around.
Between the Hawks historic points streak to begin the year, to the addition of young players on the team, there is a a hunger and a will to win. As we’ve seen all season, this is a team that plays 60 minutes. They’re tough, they’re fast, and they’re extremely talented. Young guys want their first, veterans want another, and Coach Quenneville won’t let a team roll over and die…especially not this one.
They’re Getting Pucks to the Net
Not everyone is a proponent of the “shots on goal” statistic. However, as we’ve seen multiple times this post season (Johnny Boychuk’s goal last night in New York is a prime example) that getting the puck to the net can not only lead to chances, but goals.
Through three games, the Hawks hold a shots on goal differential of +21 (Hawks 102 SOG, Hawks 81) and were only outshot in Game 2 30-20.
What to Do Next
The Hawks have continued to master the penalty kill. Having killed 17/17 penalties against the Wild, the Hawks carried that effort into the Semifinal round against the Wings, killing all 12 short handed opportunities they’ve faced. The Wings have figured out how to get the puck passed Crawford at even strength, but the Hawks PK needs to remain strong.
As mentioned earlier, continue getting the puck to the net. Jimmy Howard was spectacular in Games 2 & 3, but facing 102 shots through 3 games takes its toll. Continue to wear down the goaltending and create plays. It eventually becomes a numbers game after a while.
It’s time to get back to basics. Play Blackhawks hockey. Although it’s not a win-or-go-home scenario on Thursday, it is a must win for the Hawks. The Red Wings are a tough, veteran team looking to go on a 2012 Los Angeles Kings type run. Come out hard and continue the push for the Cup.