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Blackhawks Tue Jun 09 2015

Blackhawks in a Familiar Spot Down 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks After Brandon Saad gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead a little over four minutes into the third period of Game 3 Monday night, the cheers that followed nearly tore the paint off the United Center. The passing that occurred to set it up -- Jonathan Toews slings the puck up to Duncan Keith at the point, to Marian Hossa down low, and across to a wide-open Saad for pay dirt high on Ben Bishop's glove side -- was a thing of beauty, and something Hawks fans wished would occur on an actual power play from time to time.

Nevertheless, the goal was a real back-breaker for Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, especially after his team blew a five-on-three power play late in the second period. The Hawks looked to open things up after such a textbook play; however, a mere 13 seconds later, Ondrej Palat tied the game as Gene Honda was still announcing Saad's go-ahead score when Braydon Coburn beat Marcus Kruger on a pinch to set it all up the other way.

The Lightning eventually took the lead for good after Cedric Paquette took a beautiful feed in front of Corey Crawford from Victor Hedman with just 3 minutes, 11 seconds remaining in regulation, to give Tampa Bay and the legion of Hulkamaniacs, a 3-2 win and a 2-1 series lead. It was quite deflating for those watching at the UC, at home or at their local watering hole, but it's a situation the Hawks have been in before and a deficit they can overcome like they did in 2013.

What stings about the Game 3 loss is how well the Hawks played the first 20 minutes, dominating in puck possession, which translates to shot attempts. The Hawks outshot the Lightning 19 to five in the first period, and to give you an idea how that might look in table form, check out the shot chart below from (@HockeyStatsCa) below:


Pretty silly, isn't it? Well, eventually the Lightning figured out during the first intermission what needed to be done to prevent an utter onslaught of shots against an already-injured Bishop. They did so in the second period, outshooting the Hawks 17 to seven (most of those coming on the 5-3 advantage), and contained anything up the middle with speed and blocking.

So now Game 4 will be played at the UC Wednesday evening, and the Hawks will need to do some adjusting of their own to try and even this series or face a 3-1 deficit heading back to Tampa. Perhaps Joel Quenneville will put Toews and Patrick Kane back together for the "Nuclear Option," or perhaps Kyle Cumiskey can cover someone in the open ice in front of the net, or perhaps Patrick Sharp can dress for some on-ice action instead of being MIA.

Regardless, the Hawks have been here before, down 2-1, and have come back after any Quenneville adjustments. They've also proven they can win in Tampa -- not an easy task -- and can do so again. But it's going to take consistency in all periods of the game, and not just burst of shots on goal the first 20 minutes of action.

It's no secret Bishop is laboring a bit in net, despite what his coach tells the press before or after games. It's also no secret he's vulnerable on his glove side and up top. If his injury limits his moving side to side, the Hawks will need to expose that vulnerability a little more in moving the puck horizontally near the crease. It's ether that, or work to get the puck down low to Saad every time, in front of the net, so he can shoot it on high like a big man in the post.

It's not an ideal situation, but it's one the Hawks have come back from before. The Lightning are as quick and talented as advertised, and they're giving the likes of Keith, Brent Seabrook and company a look into their most-recent past as to how they used to chip away at outskate their opponents six or seven years ago.

The Lightning retook home ice, but the Hawks play two of its next three at the Madhouse. A blowout at home, a Game 5 steal in Tampa and a double-overtime winner back on the west side might be what the doctor ordered for the Hawks to reclaim Lord Stanley and prove its ability to overcome the odds.

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