First and Fourth Lines Come Up Big in Chicago Blackhawks’ Win
Despite two overtime losses, the Chicago Blackhawks now boast two impressive wins on the road in their last three games, having dispatched the Los Angeles Kings 5-3 in front of a Staples Center full of clamoring Blackhawks fans.
Despite the 64 combined shots, this was not a typical Blackhawks five-goal performance. 20 total penalty minutes between the two teams slowed the pace while ramping up the intensity immensely. The Kings registered 36 hits, but it seemed that quality once again mattered more than quantity.
Blackhawks’ fourth-line wing Brandon Bollig had another excellent game, leading the team with three huge hits that gave the Blackhawks a sense of physicality and intensity that had been missing during their earlier road losses. Although the fourth-line forwards technically only got two shots on goal, one of those resulted in a pivotal Marcus Kruger redirection goal.
Aside from the fourth line, the Blackhawks’ top line was also pivotal from the get-go. Patrick Sharp drew a penalty 24 seconds into the game and quickly registered a secondary assist on Patrick Kane’s power play goal.
Kane, on the second line with a mix of personnel, found his touch again while playing an emotionally charged game after losing his grandfather earlier in the day. His two goals came on six shots, the first time he fired more than five shots in nearly a month.
All in all, despite the Blackhawks losing the faceoff battle 41-22 (Los Angeles is the best faceoff team in the NHL) and taking 10 minutes of penalties, the formula for success resulted in five goals and a crucial win.
The Blackhawks’ next contest comes against the best team in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim ranks 20th in the NHL in faceoff percentage, and that should play into the Blackhawks sustaining more possession. Ideally, with less penalties and more fluidity, the Blackhawks can continue to build momentum on their pre-Olympic break road trip.
For them to have another well-rounded performance like they did tonight, though, they will need to continue relying on strong shifts from the top line to open things up. From there the fourth line can provide momentum regardless of the situation. Coupled with another multi-point performance from Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks would once again be able to make a case as the best team in the Western Conference.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486