Poll: Who was the MVP for the Blackhawks in the 2014 playoffs?

Now that the season has officially come to a close there are many questions to be answered.  While  we’ll spend plenty of time analyzing the good, the bad and the ugly, lets take a look at who the key player was for the Blackhawks in the 2014 playoffs.

Jonathan Toews:  The award for most goals in the postseason ended with Toews at nine, which ranked second in the NHL in the playoffs. He led the Blackhawks with a 27.3 shooting percentage.  Toews had two power play goals, a short-handed goal as well as one goal in overtime.  Toews was consistent throughout the playoffs, proving why he’s the Blackhawks captain. He won 54.5 percent of faceoffs.

Patrick Kane: Kane ended the postseason leading the Blackhawks with 20 points with his eight goals and 12 assists. His shooting percentage ended at 13.8 and he tied Jonathan Toews with his game winning goals at four. While Kane was in a slump at the onset of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Kings, he came through in games five through seven when he was needed most. Kane also had two of his goals in overtime.

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Game day mailbag

I almost can’t even believe that we find ourselves amidst another game day.  Game 7 has arrived, and it has been quite the fight for the Blackhawks.  Hopefully, it won’t be the last game day mailbag.  Here we go!

Jerry from Chicago writes:  With Kane dominating the playoffs like he has been, where do you rank him among Chicago’s best athletes of all time?

Courtney Terlecki:  We’re starting to see a comparison with Patrick Kane and Michael Jordan. What really puts Kane in this category is his ability to pull through when we need him the most.  He’s becoming one of the most clutch players in hockey. If he can continue to add to his Stanley Cup victories, I think that he’s definitely up there with Jordan. The team is still young too, and Kane still has plenty of time to add to his awards and Stanley Cup victories. By the end of his career, he will definitely be right up their with Jordan as one of the best athletes of Chicago.

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Why the Hawks will win Game 7

It’s been 16 years since a team has gone to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals. The Hawks are on the brink of changing that.

How will they do it?

It’s simple, the Hawks are playing at home. The Hawks thrive at home in the postseason. There are so many areas that improve when they’re playing at the United Center.

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The three ways the Hawks have forced a Game 7

It was clear after Game 5 that the Blackhawks were not going down without a fight. They proved again Friday night that you can never count them out. I took a look at how the Blackhawks have taken this series from being down 3-1 to tied at 3-3 and a Game 7.

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Game day mailbag

Another game day has arrived, and it could be the last game day if the Hawks can’t pull off a victory.  Plenty of questions to be answered, so here we go!

Kaitlyn from Arlington Heights writes:  How important is it that Crawford stay calm during todays game like he said he did last game?

Courtney Terlecki:  Whatever helps him save the goal.  I think him keeping calm is really about him staying focused, not getting overwhelmed with what’s happening around him and being able to focus on WHERE the puck is. He saved the last 24 shots on goal, so if that was him keeping calm, I say keep with it. The defense will also need to step up to help him out too.

Nicole from California writes:  Patrick Kane had four assists in Game 5. How important will he be for us in Game 6?

Courtney Terlecki:  We’ve seen it in the past, this playoff run and last year, when Kane is at his best, so are we.  Luckily, his slump was relatively short this year, but I’m hoping he can take that momentum from Game 5 and turn it into some goals for Game 6. With that, the Hawks should be able to outscore the Kings and bring it back home to Chicago.

Bobby from Elk Grove writes: What do you think they need to do to win on the road?

Courtney Terlecki:  Well we all know they haven’t been great on the road; it’s reflected in their power play and their focus.  But if there’s something that the Hawks seem to excel at, it’s winning away in clutch games. The Hawks thrive in these elimination scenarios, we’ve seen it this year and last year on their road to the Stanley Cup.

Nicole from California writes:  Coach Q switched up all of the lines in Game 5, it seemed to work.  Do you think that’s the key to winning Game 6?

Courtney Terlecki: Yes and no.  I like what Coach Quenneville did in Game 5 with the lines, and it definitely did pan out.  The question is, if he keeps the same lines will the Kings now be better prepared for it?  I think adjusting when things aren’t working out is going to end up being key.  Switching up the defensive lines was smart, but they still weren’t as strong as they could be. They still allowed four goals. Making another switch could be key.

Thanks for the questions.  Have questions?  Send them to me here, or at my Twitter @coco_terlecki  Enjoy the game!

Four reasons the Hawks have an actual shot at a Game 7

Watching the series closely, it hasn’t looked great for the Hawks.  Yes, they’ve managed to have two wins and have staved off elimination, but they were hard-fought wins.  None of the games looked exceptionally strong for the Hawks with the Los Angeles Kings generally dominating.

With that being said, I do believe the Hawks have a very good shot at bringing this back to Chicago for a Game 7.

1-Pressure. Elimination mode has kicked in. The Hawks have found themselves on the brink of elimination before and know what needs to be done to come back. They’re a team used to the pressure of the postseason, and winning Game 5 may have given them all the momentum and confidence that they need.

“We just have to win one game and that game’s [Friday] night,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said before leaving for Los Angeles on Thursday. “We’re not worried about more than that. The game we played as a team last night gave us that good feeling again. As far as I’m concerned, we’re back on the horse. We’re excited to play again [Friday] night.

2-Patrick Kane.  He finally had the game that he needed.  Although he didn’t score, he left Game 5 with four assists, and that could be all the momentum that he needs to kick start him into a successful Game 6. He seemed to be creeping out of his slump in Game 5, and a strong Game 6 could mean the difference for the Hawks.

3-Adjustments.  When something didn’t work, Coach Joel Quenneville changed it.  Kris Versteeg wasn’t playing well, so his ice time was minimal.  Lines weren’t working, they changed. It was the Saad-Shaw-Kane line that performed so well for the Hawks. Changing up the defensive lines also had positive effects. Yes they still allowed four goals, but the changes have kept the Hawks alive in this series. Pairing up the right people together as well as pairing up the right people against the Kings lines is key, and looks to be coming together for the Hawks.

4-Brandon Saad.  Saad has flourished in the Western Conference Finals.  After two full seasons with the Blackhawks, he’s starting to prove that he can be an elite player.  He has racked up 13 points this postseason with five goals and eight assists.  Not to mention that he played his best when the Hawks needed it most, leaving Game 5 with one goal and two assists.

 

The Hawks have only lost one playoff game this year at home.  All they need to do is win one more road game, and they can take it back to the United Center on Sunday.

Five keys to Game 6

Game 6 is only a few hours away, and the Blackhawks find themselves up against elimination once again.

What will it take for them to win?  I break down the five must-haves for the Hawks to be successful:

1-Power play.  It’s no secret that the Hawks have struggled in the power play on the road, we talk about it after every game.  The Hawks need to overcome this if they have any chance of winning and forcing a Game 7. The power play can be a shift in momentum, and the Hawks will need to take advantage of every available opportunity. Steve Konroyd of Comcast SportsNet wrote it best:

“Look at every game thus far in this fantastic Western Conference Final, and the team that has won the special teams battle has gone on to win the game.”

2-Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on 20 shots in Game 6, Crawford went on shut out the Kings in the next 24 shots.  Crawford is known for his mental toughness and ability to come back, but if the Hawks want to win Crawford can’t allow four goals.  The Hawks struggled in Los Angeles on offense, and you can’t count on them scoring more then four goals every game.  Crawford will need to rise to the occasion with a big game.

“We obviously have to go in and win,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Six periods, had two good periods a game and did good things. But the thing we have to shore up are the goals we’re giving up. That’s the area we have to tighten up, and make sure those little details where it’s a puck hanging around our net or off the rush, make sure we’re cleaner.”

3-Strong start.  I know, the Hawks had a strong start in Game 2 and Game 3 and still managed to lose, but if they don’t start strong they won’t be able to dig themselves out of a hole either.  We saw that in Game 4 when the Kings came out swinging and the Hawks fell early.They could never quite recover or gain momentum.

4-Defense.  While Jonathan Quick has made a lot of clutch saves, Crawford has as well.  One of the big differences in these games has been the defensive play. Sloppy mistakes and turnovers will cost them, the Hawks need to force the Kings to make the mistakes, not the other way around. We can’t put everything in Crawford’s hands. Our defense needs to be out their protecting the goal too.

5-Passing.  Game 5 was a huge improvement from the previous four.  The Hawks finally looked more in sync with their much stronger passing.  Whether it was the line changes or not, we’ll need to see that type of precision with the puck again this week.  There were plenty of opportunities in Game 4 and Game 5 for the Hawks to score, they’ll need to be taking full advantage.  It will take a few shot attempts to get past Jonathan Quick.

I’m more confident in their ability to advance to the Stanley Cup finals while at home.

Blackhawks live to see another game: Game 5 rundown

Double overtime, nine total goals, and Michal Handzus with the game winning shot.  Game 5 had all the excitement you could hope for in the Western Conference Finals. It started off strong for the Blackhawks.  We started to see the intensity and aggressiveness that has been so inconsistent in this series. The Hawks were off to an early 2-0 lead in the first period, but like most games it was quickly gone.

The Los Angeles Kings were quick to adjust and came back just as strong. It quickly turned into a one-goal game, and the Hawks went into the third period down 4-3. It was an all too familiar look for the Hawks and the struggles continued to be the same. But the Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad, and Patrick Kane line proved to be a strong decision for coach Joel Quenneville. Patrick Kane had a big game, although he didn’t have a goal, he ended the game with 4 assists.

Saad played exceptionally well throughout the game, ending with one goal and two assists.

 

What the Hawks really did well in this game was make adjustments.  If someone wasn’t performing, they made the necessary adjustment, and that’s something we’ve all wanted to see.

While the Hawks clearly haven’t fixed their power play problems, they were able to go 1-of-3, and even better is that they killed the Kings’ three power play opportunities.

The Hawks also had 45 shots on goal, and spent a large amount of time at the Kings net. Although they did continue to struggle to get the puck in the net with plenty of opportunities.

And of course we all remained extremely critical of Corey Crawford as he had his fourth consecutive game allowing four or more goals.  Although I will say, there were 44 shots on goal, and he had some very big, game-deciding saves. While some of the goals were saves that Crawford really should have made, there were some defensive misses as well that are needing to be addressed before Game 6.

If there’s anything the game was not short on it was drama, entertainment, and excitement. Hawks survived elimination to see a Game 6 which will be back in Los Angeles on Friday night.

A little game day Crawford drama

Is this really happening?

According to TMZ sports, Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is under investigation after allegedly spraying a Los Angeles Kings fan in the face with his water bottle during the Hawks Game 4 loss at the Staples Center on Monday.

After repeatedly heckling and taunting the players, Clark Wong who filed the police report was ejected from the game. He alleged that Crawford sprayed him in the face with his water bottle which was full of backwash and has irritated his eyes.

While clearly Wong seems to be confused about spray water bottles and how people who wear masks are using them, the report doesn’t seem to be taken too seriously by the LAPD.

“It’s a pretty low priority when it comes to investigation by this department,” LAPD Commander Andy Smith said.

Sounds more like an angry fan than something that we should actually be worried about, although Crawford could find himself with a fine.

Luckily, the team is focusing on what’s ahead of them in Game 5 tonight, and not about the alleged battery charge. The last thing the Hawks need as they face elimination tonight is a distraction.

“I’m not worried about it right now,” said Coach John Quenneville. “I’m worrying about the game, as Corey will.”

 

Game day mailbag

Happy game day! Over the past day, I have received a few cynical and critical questions about the Hawks very tough three losses. Here we go!

Nicole from California writes: Why do you think Coach Q kept Crawford in the net after the three goal lead in Mondays game? Do you think they need to spend more time working on their power play?

Courtney Terlecki: I think Coach Quenneville kept Corey Crawford in because he believes in his ability at goaltender. I think that we can all give Crawford that first goal, he couldn’t see the puck, not many people could have made that save. We’re also quick to look past all the saves that Crawford did make. He’s still sitting at a .918 save percentage in the playoffs. Yes, it has dropped and he has had three tough games allowing four or more goals in each of those. We also need to keep in mind there were a few empty net goals these last couple games. However, I have to say after being down four goals so quickly, a goalie change was necessary. Since they didn’t make the change right away, they probably weren’t going to as they went into the third period. Onto your second question, yes they need to work on the power play. But I think they need to do more then work on their power play. The power play has been an opportunity throughout the playoffs. What exactly have they even been working in is what I would like to know, because thus far I’ve seen very little, if any improvement on the power play. So while I think they need to continue practicing the power play, they need to spend more time on tightening up their game and making shots that count.

Michael from Schaumburg writes: What kind of adjustments need to be made coming back after losing three straight games to the Kings?

Courtney Terlecki: Well, frankly, there are quite a few adjustments that need to be made. First, they need to really step it up on goal, even if that means a goalie change. Yes, they need to score on offense, but you can’t continually expect your offense to put up more then four goals a game to win. Defense needs to stop being sloppy and committing turnovers. Turnovers have hurt the Hawks these last few games, and those types of mistakes need to be tightened up for Game 5. There are some very big opportunities right now for the Hawks defense and even the players know it. We started to see it late into Game 4, but the Hawks need to come out with intensity and focus. The team looked worn down, and the Kings did not. Intensity needs to stay strong through all three periods if they want a chance to win.

Nicole from California writes: Does the stadium audience really have an effect on the mindset of the playoffs?

Courtney Terlecki: You would like to think that a team as experienced playing in the postseason as the Hawks are, they would have an easier time with this, but it’s clear that it has had a huge effect. You can partially attribute it to their difficulties on the power play on the road as well as how poorly they’ve played on the road in general. Especially when the arena spends a large amount of time booing the Hawks.

Michael from Schaumburg: Who is starting in goal on Wednesday nights game?

Courtney Terlecki: I think we all know the answer is Crawford. Crawford is use to having to redeem himself after a few bad games, so let’s hope he comes back strong. And if he doesn’t, let’s hope Coach Q changes out goalies.

Feel free red to send me an questions you want answered through WordPress or my twitter account @coco_terlecki

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