Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joe Quenneville and his staff have a lot to think about before tonight’s Game 3 at the TD Garden. The series is now tied 1-1 after Boston’s comeback victory in Game 2.
The Blackhawks were a different team after the first period of Saturday night’s game. The Bruins made Chicago play at their pace for the last 53:48 and the Blackhawks only managed 15 shots on goal after having 19 in the opening period. Quenneville’s stagnant offense and Boston’s stifling defense are reasons why Blackhawks fans should expect some lineup changes in Game 3.
Viktor Stalberg has been in and out of the lineup throughout the postseason. The fourth-year winger was benched for the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals in favor of seldom used Brandon Bollig. This is the second time that Stalberg has been benched in the playoffs. Bollig is a brute forward who helps Chicago physically matchup with Boston’s nasty style of play, but the Blackhawks aren’t a physical hockey team. They like to play in open ice while their offense puts heavy pressure on opposing defenses. The President Trophy winners have to use their speed and skill to win this series.
Stalberg is the fastest skater on the Blackhawks roster, so Quenneville and his staff must figure out a way to get him back in the lineup. Rumor has it that Stalberg skated with the fourth line during this morning’s skate around. He could be the spark Chicago’s offense needs after a disappointing finish to Game 2.
Another problem that needs to be addressed is the subpar performance of Chicago’s power play unit, and subpar is a nice way to put it. The Blackhawks have converted 1 of their last 20 power plays since the start of the Western Conference Finals. The power play unit has been an issue all season: Chicago had the 19th ranked power play during the regular season, scoring on 16.6% of their chances. They struggled with the man advantage earlier this postseason against Detroit, forcing Quenneville to shuffle the power play lines before Game 5. The results paid off as the Blackhawks scored two power-play goals in Game 5 and capitalized on 25% of their chances during the last three games of the series. It might be time to do the same. Quenneville needs his special teams unit return to form in the near future.
“The power play is an area that we’re trying to get better at,” Duncan Keith told the media during Chicago’s travel day press conference. “We had some really good chances. Sometimes it’s just a fine line between scoring and not scoring. I think the more times that we can get pucks on the net, and keep it simple when things aren’t going well, then the better off we’ll be.”
Overall, the Blackhawks are in a difficult spot. They have yet to win a Game 3 during the 2013 playoffs and Boston is a tough team at home. They’ve won their last six playoffs games at the TD Garden. Expect Quenneville to make a few couple lineup changes before Game 3 in order to jumpstart the offense. Chicago needs sustained offensive production and another spectacular game from Corey Crawford, if they want to return the favor by stealing Game 3 from Boston on their home ice. The Blackhawks have been in adverse situations before and they look forward to the challenge that lies ahead.
“It’s a long road to win a Stanley Cup,” Center Michael Hanzus said during Chicago’s travel day press conference. “You going to get a lot of adversity and a lot of different tough moments. You have to have fun with it and look at it as a challenge.”