Coach Q's Quick thinking boosts Blackhawks
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It's clear that the Blackhawks made major strategic alterations before this series began.
And it's clear that the Los Angeles Kings have yet to find a solution.
If they don't make some changes soon, the Hawks will make quick work of them — pun fully intended.
The Hawks' defense continued its very aggressive offensive play and the offense has solved Jonathan Quick, to the tune of 4 goals in 29 minutes Sunday and a 4-2 victory at the UC.
In the words of Herb Brooks, "Well, boys, you just put the best goaltender in the world on the bench."
"I'm pretty sure he'll be back," said Michal Rozsival, after the Hawks took a 2-0 Western Conference finals lead. "He's one of the best goalies in the game. It's not a big deal to him."
Sweeping the weekend games is also not a big deal in the Hawks' minds, knowing the Kings haven't lost at home in 11 weeks. It's worth remembering as well that the Kings lost the first two games in St. Louis in the opening round, before winning the next four.
"It's only a couple of games," said Duncan Keith, shrugging off a 2-0 lead like the mold on his shin guards. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's a long series."
It could be a short series if the Kings don't recognize what the Hawks have done to change their game.
The biggest was realizing that they couldn't allow their defense to take the beating it did last year against Phoenix, when the Coyotes created turnover after turnover, and scoring chance after scoring chance.
Phoenix softened the Hawks' defense with a constant battery and by the end of the series, it wasn't even a fair fight.
Joel Quenneville obviously wasn't going to let it happen again, facing a Los Angeles team that is bigger, faster and better than Phoenix. So he has the Hawks' defense pinching on nearly every play and going deep into the Kings' zone to take the fight to them, jumping into the play on nearly every possession.
Rather than spend more time in the Hawks' zone and allow the Kings' forecheck to chip pucks behind them and punish the small Hawks defensemen, the Hawks are gambling like crazy and using their speed to pin the Kings deep.
And when the Hawks do get stuck in their own end, their forwards are coming back deep to help the defense, giving them a short pass and an easy play, thus getting rid of the puck before the big blast.
"Yeah, we wanted our defense to join the rush, activate and be a part of the offense," Bickell said. "They're making great outlets and creating turnovers and pinching because they know when to do it.
"It really helps us sustain momentum in their end. It's great to have them as an option."
Yes, the Kings are outhitting the Hawks to the tune of 90-74 over two games, and those hits will add up over a long series, but through a pair of games, the Hawks have — for the most part — avoided the really damaging blows.
The real damage has been done to Quick, whom the Hawks have made pay for playing the pass.
Andrew Shaw scored the first goal of Game 2 only 1:56 into the first when he cruised down the slot and surprised the L.A. goaltender with a quick shot, near side, off the post and in, while Quick had his eye on the far side.
With less than a minute left in the first, Brent Seabrook beat Quick inside the far post while Quick was far out of his net near side. And the fourth goal by Michal Handzus was inside the near post again. Handzus caught Quick leaning as he played the pass far side and got caught cheating.
"He's a great goalie," said Patrick Kane. "He will be ready next game and we'll have our work cut out for us."
It's the Kings now with work to do, in a monster hole at 2-0.
"What happened to us against Detroit was a wake-up call," said Brandon Saad, who played his best game of the playoffs Sunday. "We were not at our best until we got into trouble and played desperate. Now, we're playing that way."
Expect Los Angeles to bring that effort in Game 3 — and expect the Hawks to know it's coming.
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.
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