WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run as well as predictions on the rest of the NHL
A playoff series typically starts when the road team wins on the opponent’s home ice — given the way they took Game 2 of their Western Conference Final series with the Chicago Blackhawks, the L.A. Kings may have felt they wasted enough time getting things going in Game 1 and in the majority of Wednesday’s second tilt.
Five Kings goals in the third period of Game 2 swung this series firmly in L.A.’s hands as the series now travels to California for the weekend tied at 1-1. The Kings wound up with a dominating 6-2 win.
Chicago actually came out on fire in front of another rousing United Center crowd, the team set the tempo and jumped out to an early lead behind defenseman Nick Leddy’s first goal off the playoffs off a backhand shot during a power play opportunity at the 14 minute, 16 second mark of the first period.
The surge continued into the second period when Ben Smith scored his second goal of the playoffs (1:40) on a wrist shot off a sweet pass from Brandon Bollig to push the Hawks’ advantage up to 2-0. At this point it seemed like this was going to be another walk in the park for the Hawks, but this is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the team across the ice from the Hawks are playing in their third straight conference final.
Momentum shifted when Justin Williams tipped in his sixth goal of the playoffs off a Hawks turnover, cutting the lead at 2-1 in time for the end of the second period. The Kings’ increased hustle was rewarded with the goal as well as their 11 to 10 shots on goal advantage in the second period. As the third began, the Hawks’ edge in the game fell off a cliff and the Kings took control.
Just over a minute into the third, Hawks forward Brandon Bollig was called for interference on Tyler Tyfolli and the road team went to work on the power play with Jeff Carter scoring his fifth goal of the playoffs and first of this game (but far from the last) to tie the score at 2-2. The free fall continued for the Hawks when Brandon Saad was caught on a too many men penalty at 2:50 and the Kings again executed on the power play, scoring with defenseman Jeff Muzzin off a slap shot (4:04) to give them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The hot scoring surge extended for the Kings as Toffoli netted home another one (8:59) and Carter got back in on the action and closed the game with a score at 14:44 and an empty-netter for the hat trick at 16:29. L.A. dominated Game 2 in all aspects of the game including some of my favorite categories: hits (35-23), faceoff wins (43-27) and blocked shots (17-13).
Clearly the Kings had more energy from the end of the 2nd period on and clearly the Hawks lost their focus, which negated a fast start that lasted the first 38 minutes of the game. The turning point for both teams was when when the Hawks had a 2 on 1 break featuring Kris Versteeg, who delivered a one-timer pass to Brent Seabrook for a chance to go ahead 3-0, but Jonathan Quick denied him and the Kings continued with faint life until they just snatched control of the game.
Dumb penalties have cost the Hawks all season long and this fault reeked its ugly head in Game 2’s third period. The Hawks are better than what they showed and they’ll need to have a major turn around going on the road for Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles.
In goal, give Kings goalie Jonathan much credit for an outstanding performance on the road, keeping his team in it when it looked like it was going downhill early in the contest. Quick stopped 23 of 25 shots while posting a save percentage of .920. On the other side, Corey Crawford’s performance was the complete opposite of his outstanding play in Game 1, giving five goals in all and his 25 saves only helped provide a dismal .833 save percentage.
The Kings did what they had to do in winning a game on the road, this is a team that’s had to do a lot of traveling in the postseason and a lot of coming-from-behind. Its likely they just needed a little more rest to recover, it wouldn’t be off the wall to figure that the extra day between Games 1 and 2 was a major factor for them.
LA — Went 2-4 on the power play.
LA — Tanner Pearson with 2 assists on the evening.
LA — Drew Doughty and Marian Gaborik scored one assist each.
LA — Dustin Brown lead the team in hits (6).
CHI — Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya each scored one assist each.
CHI — Brent Seabrook lead the team in hits (6).
CHI — Surrendered 10 penalty minutes, including six in the third period.
CHI — The penalty kill unit gave up two power play goals.
CHI — Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp combined for 0 points.
Looking At Game 3
It is clear that this is a series now. If anyone — looking at you bandwagon Hawks fans — thought that it was going to be a ho-hum five-or-so game series, Wednesday night proved you wrong.
The Kings have just as much championship experience as the Hawks do and only one less Stanley Cup than the current roster. This is a battle-tested team and one clearly with the momentum as it heads back home to the Staples Center for Games 3 and 4.
For the Hawks, it’s obvious that they need Andrew Shaw, who has missed the series’ first two games, on the ice because of his net presence, physical play and ability to get under the skin of the opposing teams’ top scorers. Shaw is of need, but for the Hawks to take back control of this series, they need not just him but they need to play a disciplined game that withstands the Kings’ physical play and allows them to create sustained scoring chances in front of Quick.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
Game 3: Saturday, at Los Angeles, 7 PM CT (NBC)
Game 4: May 26, at Los Angeles, 8 PM CT (NBCSN)
Game 5: May 28th, 7 PM CT (NBCSN)*
Game 6: May 30th, at Los Angeles, 8 PM CT (NBCSN)*
Game 7: June 1, 7 PM CT (NBCSN)*
*= If Necessary
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