By Brad Vandenberk
It’s time to put up or shut up for Game 4 in LA. The Hawks now see themselves in the midst of a 2-game losing streak in this Western Conference Final. The good news is it wasn’t that long ago that the Hawks lost both games in Minnesota the previous series. Now the difference being a loss tonight in LA could spell doom for this dynastic Hawks squad.
There are a few observations from the last 2 losses that we can dissect. First of all paging Corey Crawford, Mr. Crawford, you’re needed between the pipes. Yes, the Hawks net minder has played some outstanding games, but it seems like he has dropped off a little bit in this series. Let’s not forget the third period meltdown that occurred at the end of Game 2. Normally Crow bounces back from a bad performance, but Saturday night’s contest didn’t fare well either for the visiting tender.
It doesn’t help when the defense in front of you tends to forget about wide open Jeff Carter’s and the walk into the slot Toffoli. There needs to be more accountability for these quick Kings forwards.
The Hawks are also starting to slide a little in the faceoff dot. Jonathan Toews seems to still be the only center showing up when the puck drops, against one of the world’s best in Anze Kopitar. What’s everyone else’s excuse?
Finally, we need to see the stars shine. Patrick Sharp is virtually invisible and Patrick Kane, well where did ‘showtime’ disappear to? This is the model the LA Kings want to drive home with the reigning Cup champs. There seems to be only 1 line (Bickell, Toews, Hossa) that can muster up any resemblance of a scoring chance.
So let’s flip the script for game 4 and get a complete effort from everyone in an Indian head sweater before returning home to the UC on Wednesday. Andrew Shaw returned to the line on Saturday, playing his first game since May 2nd when he left the first period with a lower body injury. Peter Regin rejoined his line mates on the ice. Brandon Bollig was the only lineup change for game 4.
Chicago’s lines & pairs
Bickell Toews Kane Keith Seabrook
Shaw Regin Saad Oduya Hjalmarsson
Sharp Kruger Hossa Leddy Rozsival
Versteeg Handzus Smith
Coach Q reunited the Toews line that virtually won the Hawks Lord Stanley last season. It seemed to spark Kane who has yet to get a point this series, as he walks in the slot with Drew Doughty sprawled tipping the puck off his stick. The icings begin for both teams as there are almost 6 before the 5 minute mark of the period. Keith sends a puck on Crawford with Seabrook there to clean up the front of the net, oh uh. At 15:33, Anze Kopitar hooks Hjalmarsson and the Hawks get their first power play. This power play looked different with Seabrook replacing Sharp on the point and Shaw the net front presence. Mike Richards gets a shorthanded opportunity. Hossa has a nice chance point blank but Quick makes the save and the Hawks power play continues to disappoint. Just as one penalty ends the Hawks draw another penalty when Dustin Brown high sticks Keith after a check. The power play only lasts 41 seconds when Hossa gets charged for goal tender interference. Just as the 4 on 4 ends Jake Muzzin walks in the slot and beats a screened Crawford 1-0. 2:13 minutes later, Keith flubs a puck up the boards and Kopitar fires on Crawford with a wide open Marian Gaborik on the doorstep tipping it home 2-0. Versteeg takes advantage of a hobbling Slava Voynov and tries to walk around the defender but Quick makes the save. Sharp takes an unnecessary penalty retaliating with a punch to Jarret Stoll’s head. The Kings made short work on their power play when Muzzin again, finds an open Justin Williams who taps it to Brown and just like that it’s 3-0 Kings. The period ends with the Hawks wondering when they will wake up from this dream being outshot 8-7.
The second period opens with some new line combinations. Regin is now centering Sharp and Hossa and Shaw centering Smith and Saad. Bickell tries to chop one on Quick to get something going. Seabrook slides on his belly to break up a 2 on 1. Carter breaks in and gets a shot on Crawford but he seems to be settled down. Shaw heads to the box less than 3 minutes in for cross checking Willie Mitchell in front of Quick. The Hawks final kill one off and keep the score somewhat close. Even Crawford tries to spring his forwards sending a pass down the middle of the ice icing the puck. At the halfway point of the period, Hjalmarsson notices the Kings have too many men on the ice during a sloppy change and passes it to the opposition getting the power play. Hawks get a few looks but nothing that will beat Quick. Drew Doughty sends a floater on net and it tips off Williams and then Dwight King and past Crawford 4-0 with 7:18 left in the period. There is some life shown by the Hawks. Just 1:20 later the newly formed line of Shaw, Saad and Smith finally beat Quick. Saad grabs a puck after a constant cycle and roofs a backhand over Quick making it 4-1. Bickell and Shaw then break in on a 2 on 1 with Shaw sending it wide. The Hawks get 2 great back to back shifts as the period is about to end. At the 32 second mark Shaw and Doughty battle in front of the net and both of them head to the box, Shaw for holding the stick and Doughty for a rough. The period ends with the shots on net tied at 16.
The final period opened with 1:28 of 4-on-4 hockey. Hossa gets another shot on net. Rozsival gets a point shot through with a loose puck at the side of the net with no Hawks in site for the rebound. Doughty gets his stick caught in Regin’s helmet right in front of the ref and his arm remains at his side and Regin pulls the stick from his helmet. The Hawks struggle to get through the neutral zone as the Kings do a great job clogging things up. Oduya fires a shot on net that redirects past Quick but wide. The Hawks continue to pour it on. Bickell walks into the slot and Quick flashes his pad and the rebound eludes Kane. The push begins. Seabrook sends a shot on net and Toews is there to swipe it past the goal line but Doughty blocks that, finally Bickell grabs it and sends a backhand over Quick 4-2. Seabrook then gives it up to a streaking Gaborik who is stopped by Crawford. Bickell works a great board battle sending a puck in front but the Kings clear the zone. Now the Kings begin to push back. Tyler Toffoli breaks in all alone trying to beat Crawford five hole. Then Williams gets a point blank chance and Crawford is standing on his head. With 3:01 remaining Coach Q calls his time out and pulls Crawford. Now it turns into a shooting gallery with Gaborik, Pearson and Carter missing empty net shots. Pearson did eventually bury an empty netter and the game ends 5-2 and the Kings take a 3-1 series lead with the UC hosting what could be the Hawks final game of the year on Wednesday night.
-Hawks out shot Kings 24-21
-Hawks go 0/3 on the power play and the Kings are a stellar 2/3.
-Keith led all Hawks with 22:20 of TOI, Kane was next with 21:25.
-Toews went 7/21 in the faceoff circle, Regin 5/9, Kruger 3/10, Handzus 2/4.
-Rozsival and Saad led all hawks with 4 shots on net.