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.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

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.

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.