The Chicago Blackhawks went out just before the trade deadline and acquired veteran center Michal Handzus in the hopes he’d bolster their face-off win percentage. Captain Jonathan Toews, who centers the top line, was a bit off of his career numbers, and young guns Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger were struggling on the third and fourth lines respectively.
Well Sunday afternoon Handzus lost 11 of 16 chances inside the circle, and the Blackhawks found themselves on the losing end of another overtime game in this first round playoff series.
Dare I say we might have found a chink in the armor?
The Minnesota Wild got themselves back into the series by employing a strong forecheck and playing puck possession hockey. The forechecking put the Hawks back on their heels a bit—they were outhit 34-13 in game three—and the puck possession was a result of Chicago’s poor face-off percentage.
If the Hawks want to go back to Chicago up 3-1, then Toews and Co. need to step it up tonight. Toews has failed to score a point thus far in the series and has a pair of minors to keep his plus/minus at zero.
This is unacceptable, and he knows it. His post-game comments on Sunday were pretty nasty, and I’d be stunned if he doesn’t come out with a chip on his shoulder this evening.
Kruger meanwhile, has also failed to score, and even though Handzus and Shaw both have assists, the absence of Dave Bolland, who’s still out with a lower body injury, makes their time on the ice all the more crucial.
Win some face-offs and don’t let Cal Clutterbuck and his merry band of Northmen push you around. Outside of that, the Hawks should find their overwhelming edge in talent to be enough to come home with the series firmly in hand.