When it seemed that they were doomed, the Chicago Blackhawks pulled on their big boy pants and got it together in their 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. Just as I had been reminded of their sloppy play in the semifinals, their comeback reminded me of the first of their three straight wins. And the best part about their win was that they did it without Duncan Keith, who was sitting in the timeout corner of the press box.
What it came down to was the defense actually working. Johnny Oduya, Brent Seabrook, Michal Rozsival and Niklas Hjalmarsson were the most effective in Keith’s absence, while Sheldon Brookbank, Keith’s replacement, was pretty much useless. No wonder fans groaned when he was announced to take Keith’s place.
Another thing that worked was a line change. Bryan Bickell had been on the top line with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews, but Joel Quenneville decided to mix things up and switch Hossa and Patrick Kane, who’d been on the second line with Michal Handzus and Patrick Sharp. The switch resulted in Kane’s tip-in goal, facilitated by Bickell. Hossa’s game winning goal was aided by Handzus. Sometimes, a change can do some very good things.
How do the Blackhawks win the game and the conference title? Winning faceoffs is critical, because at least one Kings goal in this series was born from a faceoff draw that the Blackhawks lost. The defense needs to repeat their game from Thursday because it shut down the Kings’ offense so well. Above all, stop taking stupid penalties and perhaps force them to take more. The Blackhawks’ power play may be more rotten than Hamlet’s Denmark, but it shows a spark of greatness now and then.
Having Keith back in the lineup will be a big help, but a win won’t come easy. The Kings are on the brink of elimination and will be desperate, but the Blackhawks will be ready.