5 Keys for the Chicago Blackhawks Beating the Los Angeles Kings
5 Keys to Winning the Western Conference
The Chicago Blackhawks have advanced to the Western Conference Finals, after a thrilling Game 7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night. Chicago struggled to score at times against Red Wings' goaltender Jimmy Howard, as they had to come back from a 3-1 deficit in order to advance. Now, the Blackhawks faceoff against the Los Angeles Kings with a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.
Chicago won the Presidents' Trophy for the best regular season record, going 36-7-5 and scoring 77 points. They steamrolled through the regular season, including starting off the season with a 24-game point streak, which is by far the most games to start a season without a loss. While they had a great regular season, it really does not mean a thing if they cannot go the distance and win the Stanley Cup.
In the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Red Wings, the Blackhawks got a huge scare. They took Game 1 of the series, before Detroit came roaring back winning three in a row. With Chicago facing elimination, they came back and won three games in a row to advance. Detroit's physical play was too much for the Blackhawks to handle at times and Howard was magnificent throughout the series. The Red Wings simply played out of their minds and gave Chicago a serious run for their money.
Fortunately, the Blackhawks survived and now take on the Kings starting Saturday afternoon. The Kings pose the same problems that Chicago struggled with against Detroit, including big physical players and possibly the only goalie in the NHL that is better than Howard. This ought to be a very good series, that could easily take all seven games to decide.
Here are my five keys for the Blackhawks if they expect to defeat Los Angeles and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, keeping this amazing season alive.
5. Production From the Stars
Chicago must get better production from their star players, most notably Patrick Kane and captain Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks are a very deep team so they can survive better than most when their stars are not scoring. That being said, if Toews, Kane and Marian Hossa can get a few goals in the net, the Blackhawks should advance.
4. Protect Home Ice
Los Angeles has been unbeatable at home this postseason going 7-0. That being said, they have been pretty bad on the road, going 1-5. Chicago has been nearly as good, with a 6-1 home playoff record. Simply, if the Blackhawks protect their home ice and win every game at the United Center, they will advance.
3. Improve Faceoffs
These two teams have been the worst in the NHL during the playoffs at winning faceoffs, both teams are at less than 48 percent. Well, something has got to give. Whichever team that steps up and starts winning these faceoffs will have a big advantage.
2. Dominate the Area in Front of the Net
One of the biggest reasons that Chicago struggled so much with the Red Wings was the incredible play of their goaltender. It does not get any easier for the Blackhawks in this round, as Jonathan Quick is probably the best goalie in all of the NHL. In the last three games of the Detroit series, the Blackhawks beat him by deflections and rebounds. Obviously, this is simply hockey strategy, but will be very important when attacking Quick. If the Blackhawks can control the area around Quick, they should be able to put some goals in the net. If not, Quick could almost single-handily send the Blackhawks packing.
1. Corey Crawford
Corey Crawford has been very good this postseason, and has been a key part to this Chicago team all year. If he can continue to play well, the Blackhawks might get away with their sometimes shaky defense. I think Crawford is the biggest key in this series. If he does not play well, I am not sure that the offense will bail them out against such an elite goaltender like Quick.