What the Blackhawks must do better to get a win in Game 3
Every five seconds can be life or death.
It's a message Jeremy Colliton has pounded into his players' heads ever since he began his coaching career in Sweden seven years ago.
The Blackhawks found this out the hard way early and often in Game 2 of their best-of-five playoff series against Edmonton on Monday as Connor McDavid notched a hat trick en route to a 6-3 Oilers victory.
The series is tied at a game apiece, with Game 3 on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.
Game 2 was just seconds old when a harmless-looking play turned into disaster in the blink of an eye.
As Duncan Keith got to a loose puck along the boards in his defensive zone, he felt pressure coming from a pair of Oilers and chipped it up the boards toward the blue line. As the puck bounced past Adam Boqvist and right to Edmonton's Darnell Nurse, Connor McDavid made his way to the net.
Boqvist and Keith remained on the boards for a split second too long, and that's all it took. McDavid swatted at a bouncing pass from Nurse and it was 1-0 Edmonton after just 19 seconds.
Afterward, Colliton, Jonathan Toews and Slater Koekkoek all said the Hawks must do a better job communicating.
"(On the first shift) we didn't talk and we turn the puck over and it's in the back of our net," Colliton said. "If you break out clean, you don't have to defend as much and you can create more."
Keith, however, refused to blame a lack of communication during his Zoom interview Tuesday.
"It's always easy to second guess things when they score a goal," Keith said. "To me it's kind of just a bang-bang play (and) it's in the net. ...
"Shouldn't be panic after that. I mean, we don't want to let them get the puck and score, but it was kind off a half-broken play. We could do a better job with the puck, but there's lots of game left. No sweat."
Not only have the Hawks allowed the first goal in both games, but both scores came in less than three minutes. So other than starting on time and communicating better, what else needs to be better in Game 3? Glad you asked.
The Hawks' netminder has allowed 10 goals and owns just an .844 save percentage vs. the Oilers. Some of the goals clearly aren't his fault, but one has to wonder if one of McDavid's first two shots is turned away if Crawford is in midseason form. Then there was the brutal misplay of a puck behind his own net in the third period. Crawford totally whiffed, allowing James Neal to swoop in and score perhaps the easiest goal of his career. That made it 5-3 Oilers with 12:35 remaining, and 40 seconds later it was 6-3.
"We put him in some tough spots. The first goal, the second goal. Couple deflections," Colliton said. "We believe in him and we know he's a guy that can win games for us and win series for us. Happy to have him in there."
Youth gone wild:
Alex Nylander, Dylan Strome and Adam Boqvist all had rough Game 2s and need to bounce back. Nylander's misplay at center ice just before Edmonton's third goal was particularly galling.
"They're learning the level you need to reach," Colliton said. "Being strong on the puck, being clean on the puck when you're going to get run over. They'll learn from it, but they weren't the only ones. ...
"We need to defend as five, we need to attack as five, and you can't have any passengers."
The Hawks have been short-handed nine times in two games, which is far too often against a team like Edmonton. They also failed to cash in on four power-play chances Monday, three of which came in near succession as they trailed 3-2 in the second period. The Hawks must do a better job of getting pucks through traffic. It might behoove Keith and Boqvist to fake an attempt every once in a while, slide a couple of feet over and then let one rip.
The Hawks rarely had the puck in the offensive zone for more than 30 seconds at a time in Game 2. Colliton expects this issue to resolve itself Wednesday.
"We'll respond," he said. "It's a 1-1 series. I'm sure no one picked us to sweep em. They won a game now we have to find a way to be better. And we will."