No one can knock Chicago for not overcoming adversity anymore, down 3-1 in the series against Detroit they battled back and won a thriller in Game 7 overtime. The Red Wings can be proud of themselves as they surprised many by battling themselves within a goal of the conference final. Now that the second round is in the books, Chicago sets its sights on the reigning cup champions Los Angeles Kings.
These two teams come into the Western Conference Final with two completely different styles. Ever since the 2012 playoffs the Kings have used physicality and great goaltending to win in the post season. The Chicago Blackhawks are outmatched on paper physically with the larger more aggressive Kings team. The Blackhawks can be successful if their offence can get traffic in front of Jonathan Quick, and they must step it up physically.
Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw lead the way physically, Bickell has 35 hits tied with Brent Seabrook for top on the team, while Shaw has 29 hits and regularly gets under opponents skin. The Los Angeles Kings have 5 players with over 35 hits and are led by Captain Dustin Brown (57) who leads all active players in this year’s playoffs.
Players like Dan Carcillo, Brandon Bollig and Jamal Mayers all are physical players but are limited in the minutes they can handle. The Kings are one of the biggest teams in the NHL, even their offensive players possess size and grittiness. The Blackhawks, especially Toews proved easy to frustrate if you lay the body on him as Abdelkader and Zetterberg did so successfully in the first 5 games of the series.
The Blackhawks are a team that support one another and have the all for one mentality when it comes to sticking up for each other. Though they are clearly outmatched in the physicality department they own the offensive advantage as the Kings rely on low scoring defensive hockey to win games.
Playing pucks is one of the very few things Jonathan Quick has not been good at, the Blackhawks need to step up their speed and cycling and get Quick moving around and playing the puck.
If the Blackhawks want to succeed they will need to win the battles in front of both nets. Clearing big players such as Penner, Fraser, Brown and King has been a difficult task for teams the past two years, the Blackhawks must give Crawford his time and space to see and react to all oncoming pucks.
On the other end of the ice, if Jonathan Quick is seeing a shot, he is almost guaranteed to stop it. Quick has won six straight playoff rounds and is coming off a confidence boosting stellar Game 7 performance. This is where Shaw and Bickell can shine, creating havoc and throwing the Kings defence and goaltender off their games by constantly bombarding the crease.
The Blackhawks, Corey Crawford especially, have gained some valuable Game 7 experience and confidence erasing a 3-1 deficit to win the series. Facing the Los Angeles Kings will prove to be a whole new type of challenge but if Coach Q gets everyone committed to stepping up the physicality then this is a winnable series for Chicago.
Creator of the Bettman Stand Up hockey blog. I cover the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers, In Hossa we trust! I also write for publications such as Arbitrage Magazine and Elite Sports Blog. You can follow me on Twitter @RickEmrith