By Sidney Brown, WARR contributor
Coming into Game 4 of its Western Conference Finals series with the Los Angeles Kings, the questions that hung in the air for the Chicago Blackhawks were could they take command of this series? Or would they possibly lose all control and allow the Kings to fully regroup on its home ice and even the series at 2 games a piece?
Playing without star defenseman Duncan Keith, who suffered a one-game suspension after high-sticking Kings winger Jeff Carter in the face in Game 3, the Hawks responded like champions with a 3-2 victory that gives them a strangle hold-like 3-1 lead in this series. Thursday’s game started fast for the Hawks tempo-wise but the Kings struck first with a goal from Slava Voynov at 3:28 of the 1st period, Voynov’s sixth of the playoffs, to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
The Hawks kept up their offensive pressure and it paid off with Bryan Bickell tallying his eighth goal of the playoffs at 13:16 in the 1st off a slap shot that barely passed Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to tie the game at 1-1. The Kings grabbed momentum back in the 2nd period as Dustin Penner made sure he was heard from, scoring his third goal of the playoffs on a wrist shot at 2:12 to give the Kings a 2-1 lead. After Penner struch then the stars for the Hawks finally came to shine as Patrick Kane netted his third goal of the playoffs late in the 18:21 late in the second to tie the game once again at the period’s end.
As the 3rd period began, the Hawks continued to control the pace of the game by out-shooting the Kings by a 9-2 margin. Helping Chicago’s campaign was Marian Hossa, who joined in on the scoring fun with his seventh goal of the playoffs just over a minute into the 3rd to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead. After giving up a questionable goal in the 2nd to Penner, Hawks goalie Corey Crawford played stellar the rest of the way, shutting out the Kings the rest of the way while making 19 saves on 21 shots for the entire game, good for a save percentage of .905%.
On the other side, it was a tough day at the office for Quick, who made some saves throughout the game but couldn’t do much when the Hawks found holes in the crease. Quick struggled to make 25 saves off 28 shots with a save percentage of .893%. Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson replaced Keith in the first defensive pairing with Brent Seabrook, both did a phenomenal job shutting down the Kings’ top scoring line.
With no goals to show for, Hawks captain Jonathan Toews still managed to play his best best game of this series as he created numerous scoring chances for himself and being aggressive driving to the net. For the Kings, who looked filled with so much promise Tuesday, their home winning streak came to a close at eight and now they have to head to Chicago for Game 5 on Saturday night to hold off elimination.
Game 5 takes place at 7PM central time on NBC, yes NBC, Saturday night. I guess the “Best Of” Saturday Night Live episodes and reruns of “The Voice” can wait another week!…lol!
First, to the Hawks penalty kill unit for blanking the Kings on their man advantage (0-3).
Second, to the Kings penalty kill unit, who shut out the Hawks on their man advantage (0-4).
Third, to Kings winger Tyler Toffoli, who had an assist on Penner’s goal in the second. Toffoli now has four points in three games since replacing the injured Mike Richards (concussion).
Last but not least, to the Hawks themselves, now 6-1 in their last seven playoff games and holding their opponents to a 1.84 goals against average while improving their road record to 3-4 this postseason.
First, the Hawks power play unit going 0-4 on their man advantage. It’s only a matter of time before this unit gets going right?…. Right?….I’m just as baffled as some of you Hawks fans are.
Second, the Kings power play running on empty with a 0-3 effort. If this stat doesn’t get improved for Game 5 on Saturday night, the Kings can start planning their vacation spots now.
Next, Kings captain Dustin Brown has scored one goal in the last nine games and Anze Kopitar has one goal in the last 13 games. The stars MUST show up and shine for the Kings if they want to extend their season. Brown and Kopitar combined for one shot on goal in Game 4 with NO POINTS.
Questions hanging in the air as we head towards Game 5 at the United Center: Will the superstars for the Kings step up offensively and save their season? Will the Hawks deliver the knockout punch? Will the Kings ramp up their physical play? Can Quick stand on his head enough to bring Game 6 back to L.A.? And can Crawford make another stand to lead his team to the Stanley Cup Final? We will find out the answers to these key questions for Game 5 Saturday night.
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