FACEOFF: 7pm Central
TV/RADIO: NBC for Yanks, CBC for hosers, 87.7 FM
So for the first time this postseason, the Hawks find themselves even after just two games, having lost for the first time at Fort Kickass on Madison. To regain the lead, the Hawks will have to do something they haven’t done since in San Jose in 2010. That’s win their first game on the road in a series. That’s right, it’s been that long.
For the Hawks, in yet another decision that’s beyond logic, Andrew Shaw will return but he’ll remove Peter Regin from the lineup. Because the Hawks don’t want to exploit the advantage in speed they have over the Kings’ defense, just keep it where it is. Shaw will slot in on the 3rd line between Versteeg and Saad apparently, and Versteeg can breathe a sigh of relief it isn’t his useless ass vaulted into the pressbox.
Don’t think there will be any other lineup changes for either side. If there is one it’ll be Brookbank in for Rozsival.
So what to watch for? With last change at home, Darryl Sutter will have the option of getting Anze Kopitar away from Jonathan Toews. The problem for Sutter is he may not have another center or line that can handle Toews and Hossa, and may still opt for that matchup. If he doesn’t, the Hawks don’t have another center that can handle Kopitar, so it could be a balancing act. And try not to swallow your tongue if Kopitar gets out there against Handzus, though it’s going to be a challenge.
The Hawks yesterday talked about simplifying their game, or playing a “a good road game.” They did actually manage this in Game 3 against Minnesota, though that was against a Wild team that was also sitting back for 40 minutes. When they turned it on, the Hawks were caught unawares. They don’t have to worry about the Kings trapping tonight, I wouldn’t think. In fact, they’ll probably coming out firing, so support in the defensive zone will be paramount and none of the following the map to the home of the stars that Versteeg and Sharp engaged in in the 2nd period of Game 2 that let the Kings back in.
Quick through the neutral zone. Straight lines. Get the puck behind the slow Kings defense that aren’t named “Drew Doughty” and win those races. Or if it’s open, beat them to the outside. The Hawks have only done this in spurts this series, but when they have Greene, Mitchell, Voynov haven’t really had any answers.
For the Kings, I’m not sure they have a Plan B so you know what’s coming. They’ll look to forecheck, forecheck, forecheck and take advantage of the matchups they will get. They have a much bigger counter punch these days than they did last year, so stupidity and silliness in the neutral zone will be swiftly punished.
And for fuck’s sake stay out of the box. This is a real power play across from the Hawks now, and lunacy will also see sentencing on the scoreboard.
The hope is that Shaw and Saad can combine as they have only in an off-and-on fashion to make up for Versteeg and get a cycle going. It won’t be long before Ben Smith is required between Kane and Sharp, due to Sharp being off and Handzus being nothing more than kindling on the road and facing any of Carter, Kopitar, or Stoll.
Looks like Toews, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, Oduya and especially Corey Crawford are going to have to do the heavy lifting. Speaking of Crow, we’ve remarked how he bounces back from a rough one. After Game 2 against St. Louis he pitched a shutout in Game 3. After Game 4 against Minnesota he only gave up one. The difference here is those bounce-backs were at home, and this one is not. But I would still count on a pretty big game from him.
Then again, this was the point last year where Jonathan Quick had his “one game,” so it probably is going to be a squeaker tonight.
Cinch it up and hunker down. This one will not be fun.