Konroyd's Keys: Third line the difference for Blackhawks


Konroyd's Keys: Third line the difference for Blackhawks

1. Watch Ryan Kesler on faceoffs. The Ducks have not had a lot of success since they won their first Stanley Cup eight years ago, with just two series wins in the postseason since 2007. That is, until this year. They swept the Jets, a team I thought would upset the Ducks, and then disposed of the Flames in five games. Kesler has been a difference maker, not only chipping in with points but winning almost 64 percent of his faceoffs. That is an incredible number, and proficiency at the faceoff dot sets up a lot of scoring plays, especially on the power play. Neutralize this guy on faceoffs, and you have a better chance of controlling the game.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks penalty kill will be tested by Ducks' power play]

2. Blackhawks' third line will be a factor. The Blackhawks and Ducks are loaded up front. Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad on Line 1 and then Patrick Kane, Brad Richards and Bryan Bickell on Line 2. They are countered by Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon and Kesler, Matt Beleskey and Jakob Silfverberg. I think it’s the depth of the Blackhawks that will be the difference in this series, and in particular the third line of Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette and Tuevo Teravainen. You know what you’re getting from Sharp, a guy who has scored at least one goal in 19 straight playoff series. Vermette is looking a lot more comfortable centering this line, especially in his last three games against the Wild. And I think Teuvo Teravainen is on the verge of a breakout series. He was dangerous every time he touched the puck against the Wild after being a healthy scratch the last four games of the Predators series, and he has the type of speed and creativity that will drive the Ducks crazy.

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3. Best goalie wins. I really like how Corey Crawford has responded in these playoffs. He struggled early against the Predators, found himself the backup for a good chunk of that series, then came in to save the day in the clincher in Game 6. He has never looked back, sweeping the Wild in four games. Frederik Andersen, the Danish netminder for the Ducks, has won eight of the nine games he has played in so far. But he has bested Ondrej Pavelec, the Jets' goalie who had never played a playoff game, and the Flames' Karri Ramo, another goalie with no prior playoff experience as a starter. Andersen will now be staring down a goalie who has found his game and a stopper who has a Stanley Cup under his belt. There is so much talent on both of these squads that I think whoever has the best goaltending performance will win the game.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: