Coach Q, players lay out Hawks' strengths
LOS ANGELES — When Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville switched up his defense pairs last series against Detroit, he did it to light a fire under the slumping Brent Seabrook by reuniting him with longtime partner Duncan Keith.
That left Niklas Hjalmarsson to play with Johnny Oduya and Nick Leddy to play with Michal Rozsival, but on this Hawks team Quenneville expects everybody to be able to play with everybody.
"I think once you switch to another defense partner, there's a little difference," Leddy said. "But it's so easy playing with everybody. Everybody makes it super easy.
"For me especially, last year I think I played with everybody on the team. This year it's been a little different. We've had the same partners for most of it, but I think the chemistry between all of us is there."
In the first two games on the Western Conference finals the Hawks' defense got plenty of help from the forwards.
"They've been great," Leddy said. "I think they've been great all year. They just kept it going through the playoffs. This series especially, they've been huge for us.
"For us to stay up and have a tight gap, it puts pressure on their forwards."
Kruger and Frolik:
Now when the subject is the Hawks' penalty killing, it has become Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik and the penalty killers.
"We had an ongoing process this year with the penalty kill," Kruger said. "We got a good start and had to build on that. It's always a new game and a new team. You have to be aware all season.
"You can't relax. You just have to get the job done every night."
Kruger and Frolik have impressed their teammates.
"They've been huge," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "That's been one of the biggest reasons for us having success on the PK so far. Last year when we didn't do that well, I think we had way too many shots, just clear points. Pretty much every night, their D-men just had a lot of clear lanes to shoot the puck.
"This year I think we're doing a way better job, especially the forwards, just being in the shooting lane. The way they work together as a unit up there, it's been really good."
The Hawks stayed off the ice Tuesday morning, deciding not to have a game-day skate because of the 6 p.m. local start.
"Well, it's a 6 o'clock game and I don't think we've skated too many 6 o'clock games with travel in there," Joel Quenneville said.
"Personally, I kind of like it," Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "It's nice. It's been a lot of hockey here. Back to back, obviously, and travel days. I don't mind it. You just try to be mentally ready when the puck drops. That's what it's all about at this point, I think."
Niklas Hjalmarsson represents many of the Hawks who are big believers in Corey Crawford.
"I've been playing with Corey ever since I got here my first year, and in the minors, too," Hjalmarsson said. "I think the biggest difference that I've seen is just focus. He's been unbelievably focused this year.
"That's how he has played all year, giving the defensemen and whole team a lot of confidence. He's just been solid game after game. Especially here in the playoffs he's stepped up his game even more.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter thinks his team did a good job against Crawford in Game 2.
"It's missed nets, missing great opportunities," Sutter said. "They had seven and scored on three. We doubled that and didn't (score). You know what, they probably have a little higher end in the goal-scoring part of it in terms of individually. You have to literally limit everything.
"I'm not worried about Corey Crawford. If we're just only focused on Corey Crawford, then you're not going to get any opportunities. We had several last game that you have to finish on. The nets didn't get smaller in Chicago."
The Hawks announced they have agreed to terms with Finnish goaltender Antti Raanta on a one-year contract. The 24-year-old provides insurance against losing Ray Emery this summer as an unrestricted free agent.
Raanta had a 21-10-11 record with 5 shutouts, a 1.85 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in 45 games last season with Assat Pori of SM-liiga (Finland).
The native of Finland was named to the league's all-star team and was honored as the best goaltender, as well as the MVP of the regular season and playoffs.
"I know there was talk about him during the season," Joel Quenneville said. "I know they're excited about him; there's a lot of people in on it. We were fortunate to get him."
Help for Quick:
The Kings were confident Jonathan Quick would bounce back from being pulled in Game 2.
"We have to be better in front of him," Jarret Stoll said. "That's no secret. You can't rely on your goaltender as much as we have."
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