ANAHEIM, Calif. – The concerns of the Michal Rozsival-less Blackhawks defense were present entering the Western Conference Final.
Someone had to make up the time-on-ice difference for Rozsival, who was playing 15-18 minutes before he suffered a postseason-ending fractured ankle against Minnesota. David Rundblad was going to get thrown into a tough situation, having no postseason experience. Kimmo Timonen wasn’t playing much at all and who knew if coach Joel Quenneville would change that, even in Rozsival’s absence.
Well, Game 1 is in the books. And regarding the Blackhawks’ defense going forward, there may be even more questions now.
Rundblad had a tough day, as two of his clearing attempts/passes resulted in Anaheim goals. Timonen logged just 5:15 of ice time. Duncan Keith played more than 28 minutes, and 10 1/2 of those came in the first period. The depleted depth past Rozsival was known entering this series, and Game 1 emphasized that.
So let’s break this down a bit, shall we? While some folks on Twitter are screaming for Kyle Cumiskey or a defenseman from Rockford to get playing time, will it make a difference? Either way you’re going to have an inexperienced defenseman coming in at a pressure-filled time of the postseason — Cumiskey, by the way, has played just six NHL postseason games. Maybe it’s worth the chance but the risk, nevertheless, would be there.
Last week, Timonen said he’s felt as good as he ever has entering this series. Why he only logged a little more than five minutes is uncertain. Perhaps coach Quenneville is wary of playing him more. Maybe it was because the Blackhawks got down 1-0 about nine minutes into the game and were chasing from then on out. When that happens, the Blackhawks rotate their top players more often. But if Timonen is healthy he needs to play more. If nothing else, he soaks up some of those minutes.
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Quenneville, when asked if the Blackhawks have enough depth with Rundblad and Timonen, said, “I think we’re fine.”
“Every game's different,” he said. “I think when you're not playing much, you want to play it safe, keep it simple as best you can. We'll work our way through it.”
If the Blackhawks do work their way through it, it will still probably be with their top four playing a bulk of the minutes. The Blackhawks had plenty of rest entering this series, so those four should be fine in that respect. But it’s not just the minutes. They’ll take more of a beating in this series than they have the previous ones. As Ryan Kesler said following Sunday’s game, “When you get guys playing a ton of minutes, it’s going to wear them down. We’ve got to invest in them physically.”
The Blackhawks will make adjustments heading into Game 2. They always do after a loss. The defensive depth, or lack thereof in Rozsival’s absence, was going to be a concern entering this series. It still is.