Thursday seems like it was forever ago (or maybe I just need to get more sleep) but the memory is probably still pretty fresh for both sides coming into a pretty crucial Game 5. The Kings are licking their wounds after a miserable third period that we’ve covered and reveled in for the past two days. If anyone knows that a 3-1 series lead isn’t safe though, it’s going to be Chicago, seeing as how they offed their rivals in the last series despite being in the exactly same spot.
For tonight, the Hawks don’t need to change much but can’t pause for a second and think the series is safe. LA is going to be a difficult spot to find a second win in and anything can happen in a Game 7. With Boston waiting, this needs to end tonight.
The formula for tonight ought to be pretty simple. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’. While there have been a few highlight reel moments for the Hawks, most of what has made this series so successful for them has simply been all the little things they keep getting right. We knew the Kings forwards would be coming at the defense the way college kids attack a free keg of beer. We were hoping we’d see the Hawks react by not panicing and finding the quick short pass or skating away from the trouble. That’s what we’ve got so far. Biscuit has been a little jumpy but players like Hammer are playing possibly the best we’ve ever seen from him. He’s taking a hit when needed but he’s making the right play. Even Leddy has held the puck for a second, knowing he’ll get leveled if it means finding the right teammate. If the Hawks can keep this going from their defense rather than blindly firing it up the boards, only good things will happen.
Oh, and now they get slap-happy Duncan Keith back too. The Kings will likely look at him as a giant target sign so it’ll be imperative that he’s able to keep his cool and return to the game he was playing before lashing out after Carter got to him.
Speaking of keeping your cool, staying the hell out of the penalty box will be a welcome sight if at all possible. Andrew Shaw has been the worst offender for the Blackhawks but that sort of thing comes with his style of play. If he can reign it in a touch, at least for tonight, I would OK with it. The Kings have the offensive firepower of a dollar-store squirt gun right now on the power play but if they keep getting looks they’re bound to find a way. On the same hand, it would be great to see the Hawks get a few more goals with the advantage as well.
Out in LA, they’re probably hearing the same thing we have to deal with about how their top lines are soft and not worth their paychecks (I’m just assuming LA has meatballs too.. maybe their fanbase isn’t deep enough for them yet). Kopitar has been bounced around lines a bit but ought to be slot right into his role on the top line for tonight. He’s not producing anywhere else so might as well put him back where he’s most comfortable. I’m not 100% sure Dustin Brown has played this series but I’ll get back to you on that. Not too shockingly, it’s the second line that’s been the most dangerous for the Kings so far. They’re the ones with the best mix of talent and size. Carter and Penner are the biggest threats we’ve seen thus far while Toffoli has come out of nowhere to be a pest. This line is going to get the reunited Marlboro 72 for the most of the game since Q will be given the opportunity to pick his spots.
As for how Q will manage the game, we’re obviously all big fans of keeping Daydream Nation out there with Bicks. With the lines adjusted the way they were in Game 4, we saw production from both top lines. Kane does well with the space created from Toews and Bicks (and without having to hurry up and wait for Handzus to join him) and Hossa could probably play well with just about anyone right now. With a full lineup back, Q should be rolling all lines out pretty evenly.
A Game 6 is scary and Game 7 will be terrifying. Get it done tonight.
Let’s Go Hawks
If you’re not going to tonight’s game, you can grab tonight’s Committed Indian program right here: