Jonathan Quick remains undefeated over the postseason at the Staples Center. Going into Game 4 at home his unbeaten status there stands at 15 in the playoffs. Quick’s remarkable performance is doing nothing to damage his growing reputation as the best goaltender in the world. He almost singlehandedly beat the Blackhawks to introduce the Kings to the win column in this semifinal series. The Kings were down 2-0, and they now go into Game 4 down 2-1. Where have we heard this before?
The Game 3 was pretty typical night for the Kings as they got two goals from their offensive depth players, then let Quick take over. Quick honestly didn’t have to do much to stymy the Hawks and he could’ve easily earned a shutout but for Bryan Bickell’s wide wraparound that netted Chicago’s only goal of the game. Quick only had to face 20 shots in, which was mostly due to LA’s domination of time of possession that left Chicago pinned deep in their zone all night and without many quality shooting opportunities when they crossed the blue line. The Hawks would have expected LA to control the tempo of the game in front of a home crowd, and certainly the Hawks didn’t expect to sweep the Kings. The Hawks just want to split this 2-game away mini-series to return home an close out the semifinals in 5 games.
This was the third game in four nights and travel across time zones didn’t appear to hinder either team. The Hawks seemed a little sluggish once in a while, but their tempo was quite good throughout the game. In any case, the Blackhawks need to get more shots on net if they want to win Game 4 because Quick will stop almost all of them so the “almost” part need to really count. Otherwise the Blackhawks might find themselves commiserating with St. Louis. Quick is the X-factor for the Kings and God forbid he gets on a roll to put together consecutive shutouts. The Blackhawks cannot play the way they did last night because that’s a gift to the defending champions. LA wants to grind Chicago down and take away their skill players with puck possession and corner dump-ins.
It appears as though the underdogs of both the Eastern and Western Conferences are copying each other as none of the more potent skill players for Chicago and Pittsburgh seem to be able to find their mojo. For Blackhawks’ fans, the last thing they want is lean too heavily on Corey Crawford. He’s been stellar in these semifinals but prudence suggests that his numbers will return to their longer-term trend and, well, the skill players better step up big time. Crawford isn’t in the same league as Quick, and both Quenville and Sutter know it. For the Blackhawks to return to the finals they need to return to their plan of attack from Game 2 when they consistently created and took advantage of opportunities.
The Blackhawks scored four goals on 17 shots in Game 2 whereas in period 2 of Game 3 they took just three shots. They also allowed the Kings to go on the PP five times. These types of eye-popping stats combined with the fact that it was a one-goal game for most of the night shows that the Kings are eminently beatable. Fans now need to hope that the Kings don’t realize they got away with one last night, because Jonathan Quick defined the expression “stealing a game”.
Game 4 is tonight at 8 p.m. CDT