12:22 PM CDT, June 6, 2013
The worst part of the Blackhawks’ performance in Game 3 in Los Angeles arguably was Duncan Keith’s whacking Jeff Carter in the face with his stick, a selfish and undisciplined move.
Keith’s stupidity with the Hawks two wins from the Stanley Cup Finals earned him a deserved one-game suspension, meaning the Hawks won’t have him for Game 4 on the road against a Kings team that hasn’t lost at home this postseason. Good, solid, leadership right there, eh?
So, yeah, that seems like the worst part of the Hawks’ loss in Game 3.
But we might’ve seen something worse because it might carry on longer than Keith’s suspension: a replay of the Hawks’ series against Phoenix last year.
The Coyotes and Kings are constructed similarly. They have bigger bodies that love to dump and chase and crush your will to live on the forecheck while backed by a goalie who seems impenetrable.
Last year, the Coyotes pushed the game along the boards, and the faster Hawks stayed plastered right there. The Coyotes forced the game below the circles in the Hawks zone, and the Hawks couldn’t figure out how to exit the maze in one piece.
And there were the Hawks, getting beaten and beaten up along the Staples Center boards Tuesday. The Hawks looked soft and ineffective against the Kings, same as they did in dropping their first-round series in six games to the Coyotes.
The Hawks acted like they wanted to skate against the Kings. But they didn’t.
They acted like they wanted to play their transition game against the Kings. But they didn’t.
They didn’t because they never had the puck long enough.
For the first two periods, anyway, the Hawks didn’t work hard enough or smart enough to win the puck. They lost the battle along the boards, and if you can’t get off the boards with the puck, you can’t work it through the middle of the ice the way the Hawks did in victories in Games 1 and 2.
What’s more, against the Kings on Tuesday, the Hawks also were slow to loose pucks, and they created enough loose pucks, believe me, what with a ridiculous 15 giveaways.
Another issue was falling in love with the home-run pass. Yes, it has worked well this season, but they had too many forwards cherry-picking, leaving the defensemen with fewer options to clear the puck.
At some point, the Hawks needed to commit to moving as five-man units, breaking out with shorter, quicker passes, then chipping it behind the Kings defenders.
That, of course, requires winning fights in the corners, and isn’t that where we came in?
Look, the Hawks are never going to pound teams the way the Kings want to, but the Hawks don’t have to play that way to win. They’re faster and quicker than the Kings, and that’s where we came in to start this series.
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