LOS ANGELES – You’ve heard it plenty of times. We’ve written it plenty of times. Players have said it plenty of times. Whenever they hit the road, the same phrase comes up: “We have to keep it simple.”
So it comes as no surprise that the Chicago Blackhawks were saying that again entering Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night: don’t get too fancy, don’t get too overzealous, just play clean, simple hockey. Now, it’s a matter of putting words to action, as the Blackhawks try to gain an advantage in this Western Conference Final again.
“It’s a mindset, for sure, being simple. And I think when we’re at our best we’re thinking defense and checking first and then our offense takes care of itself,” Duncan Keith said. “Maybe that mindset going into the next game on the road is going to be beneficial for us. We’ve enjoyed being on the road; we’re going to look at it in a good way.”
So how is that done well?
“Maybe (avoid) the pretty plays, find a way to take the crowd out of it by maybe being a little more simple, not creating as many momentum swings out there,” Kris Versteeg said following Friday’s practice. “That’s pretty much what any player means by, in a road game, keeping it simple and getting a gritty road win.”
How appropriate that, at a time when the Blackhawks need a gritty win, they’re welcoming back Andrew Shaw. He’ll help in one area: constant net-front presence. Because along with simple play, the Blackhawks need those ugly goals about which we hear so much. Shaw is “amped up” to return, and isn’t worried that he’s joining a series already in progress.
“I think it’s an advantage,” he said. “I’m well rested, I’m excited and I’ve got a lot of energy. So hopefully I can help the boys out that way.”
The Blackhawks will face certain challenges being back on the road. They won’t get last change, so the Kings will be angling for the best matchups. But the Blackhawks are not strangers to road success. They know what it takes to quiet the visitor’s building, to get that big victory away from home. But they have to avoid being over-stylish, overpassing and overdoing things if they get behind, like they did against the Kings late in Game 2. They need to play good, strong Blackhawks road hockey.
It’s simple. So they say.
“Keep it simple,” Corey Crawford said. “They have a lot of skill on the other side; more than people think. Keep it simple, play the way we can play and don’t get away from our game no matter what happens. We’ve said a million times that not everything is going to go your way every time, so you have to keep playing hard and keep playing the way you can.”