Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Half-empty or half-full?

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Hawk Talk: Half-empty or half-full?

Thursday, June 3, 2010
9:21 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

PHILADELPHIA Riddle me this: Are the Chicago Blackhawks not the most criticized winner of the first two of three Stanley Cup Finals games in recent memory?

First, horror of horrors, the Blackhawks won the Game 1 slugfest over the Philadelphia Flyers because their goalie was just a bit better and puck possession a smidge stronger. Then in Game 2, the Philly hung in with Chicago, which apparently earns a tie point or somethingnot sure, it doesnt seem to show up in the series records. And with a loss in Game 3Chicagos first in eight playoff gamesits as if somehow a series of breakdowns and bounces earned the Flyers two or three victories instead of just one.

Yes, its all the rage to point out that the Flyers are back in it ad nauseam. Well, sure, in that theyre not down 3-0, the Flyers are back in it.

But its an opportune time to again mention picking the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup Finals in five games. Game 3 was the contest that the Hawks would most likely lose, and on the hush-hush in private correspondence your faithful hockey servant anticipated a Blackhawks blowout in either Game 3 or 4so you have a read on what I think is coming.

However, some folks prefer to see their cups half-empty, and giving them something to wring their hands over is arguably a public service. So, in the interest of fair play, as well as keeping Philadelphias pipe dream alive, here are three key weaknesses weve seen in the Blackhawks.

Cool Hand Qs Shufflin Crew
Its about time for Dustin Byfuglien to shuffle off to another line, yes? Its not so much hes played poorly or been baited by Flyers jokesterdefenseman Chris Prongeralthough those arguments could be made. But it is definitely time to stop the bullheadedness of keeping the first line that crushed the San Jose Sharks together for nostalgias sake. The Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane-Byfuglien line rallied the Blackhawks into the Finals, and it will be remembered forever fondly for that. But Coach Joel Quenneville, who has been notoriously flip (and in the playoffs, super savvy) about pulling the trigger on player substitutions and remade forward lines, has been strangely silent in terms of such moves so far. Hes overdue some changes come Game 4.

Get Soupy Out of the Doghouse
No one will argue that defenseman Brian Campbell had a strong Game 1, and it was understandable that Soupy saw very limited minutes during the Chicago leg of the Finals. But Campbell is much too valuable to Chicagos puck-possession play to continue to function as the fifth d-man on the depth chart. Brent Sopel has terrific value as a shot-blocker, but too much time for the Iron Giant is an indication the Quenneville is playing too defensively and conservatively. A contingent effect of Soupys reduced minutes is that far too often Sopel and Niklas Hjalmarsson have been paired, neither of whom can do much in terms of advancing the puck and tightening the screws on Philly with puck possession. Such a pairing allows the Flyers, already aggressive and wilding with the dressing the Carcillos of the world, to be that much more aggressivewithout consequence.

Matchmaking Nightmares
Of course the Finals are the consummate chess match, but thats no reason for Quenneville to get all Kasparov on Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who is pretty well known as confident bordering on brash. It wouldnt take too much to exploit Laviolettes confidence, but Cool Hand Q appears to need to not just beat the Flyers, but run a victory lap around them when it comes to line matching.

Nowhere in the series did it hurt the Blackhawks more than in overtime of Game 3, when Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky were both dashing off the ice when the opportunistic switching post-faceoff, turned fatal. In the defensive confusion, Dave Bolland was double-teaming Danny Briere, leaving Duncan Keith frozen and surrounded by three Flyers. The goal that tied the game, by Ville Leinocompletely nullifying Patrick Kanes stunner of a breakaway that gave the Blackhawks their first lead, for 20 secondsalso came as the result of a quick line yanking from Q.

While some Blackhawks admitted a bit of confusion over the frequency (and in some cases, sloppiness) of the line changes after Game 3, Quenneville was all too willing to issue a mea culpa. The bad news for Flyers fans is that the steely mentor is sure to be much more surgical with his bench moves come Friday.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Patrick Kane passes Bobby Hull for third place in Blackhawks' all-time playoff points

Patrick Kane passes Bobby Hull for third place in Blackhawks' all-time playoff points

On Thursday, Patrick Kane made even more history to cement himself among top all-time legendary Blackhawks in the Hawks' 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 of the first round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Vegas Golden Knights.

In the second period of Game 2, Kane recorded three points off three assists to pass Bobby Hull (129) for third in most playoff points in Hawks history with 130. Denis Savard is in second with 145 and Stan Mikita is No. 1 with 150.

Related: Blackhawks' Patrick Kane found his postseason game, but is it too late?

"Well, I've been fortunate to play on some amazing teams. And I guess when you have some deep runs in the playoffs, you're going to have the chance to put up numbers and points when you're an offensive guy," a humble Kane said following Thursday's loss. "So I appreciate those teams I've been on, trying to do the same thing here with this team.

"I think we got a good group. I think we proved it all year when we played in tough situations, faced some adversity that we were able to come back, we're able to work our way out of it. This isn't a team that's going to give up and I think we're in a situation here where we're coming into a day off then a back-to-back situation and we feel we got a young team with some fresh legs, so hopefully that can be used to our advantage."

The Hawks take on the Knights in Game 3 Saturday at 7 p.m. and Game 4 Sunday at 5:30 p.m. CT.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks vs. Vegas Golden Knights, Game 2 recap

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Hawks vs. Vegas Golden Knights, Game 2 recap

The Hawks lose their second straight game in a close OT finish to the Vegas Golden Knights and are now down 2-0 in the series. Host Pat Boyle is joined by Blackhawks analyst Steve Konroyd, as they discuss the heartbreaking Game 2 loss, what went wrong, and how the Hawks can climb back from the series deficit.

(1:00) - Vegas Golden Knights stay hot

(7:22) - Hawks line shakeup in Game 2

(11:30) - Vegas Golden Knights are outshooting their opponents

(16:00) - How the switch to becoming the home team can help the Hawks

(19:30) - The Hawks have been down before, they can come back

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Blackhawks news and analysis.