1. Motion on the back end. The Chicago Blackhawks defensemen have been a big part of the offense the last couple of games. They have picked up seven points over this stretch including three very important goals from Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Johnny Oduya. We’ve seen the defenders jump up on the play and become like a fourth forward off the rush. But what I like most is their movement once they are set up in the attacking zone. They just don’t stand out at the points, waiting for something to happen. They are constantly in motion, interchanging with each other, trying to create an open passing lane, and sometimes venturing all the way down to the front of the net. This creates havoc and confusion for the defenders, and we saw this on Patrick Kanes game winning goal on Friday where both Seabrook and Oduya were heading “in” as Kane was heading “out”. Keep your “D” in motion and keep the LA defenders guessing.
2. Continue the aggressive fore check. The Hawks forced 17 giveaways by the Kings in Game 6 of this epic last playoff series. Seven of those giveaways were by defensemen, and when you force a turnover by a D-man in his own zone, chances are you are going to get a good look. Foot speed has been a difference in these last few games, and when Chicago can get in on LA’s defense after dump-ins, they are coming up with loose pucks. Yes, it helps to get on the body to create these chances, but quick sticks can be just as effective, and we’ve seen Kane, Toews and Hossa wreak havoc by poking pucks away from defenders trying to make passes. “Get pucks deep - get pucks back - and get pucks to the net” has to be your mantra.
3. Home ice advantage is huge…. get off to a great start. LA has been here before in these playoffs - Game 7 on enemy ice - and they have come out of it with big wins against the Sharks and the Ducks. In their closeout of Anaheim in that deciding Game 2 weeks ago, they scored the game’s first goal less than five minutes in, took the Ducks’ crowd out of it, and never looked back. It was 4-0 just two minutes into the second period because of a great start. You can’t win a game in the first period, but you can certainly set the tone. The 22,000 faithful at the United Center are the best in the league. I’ve seen this crowd pick up a player (Cory Crawford after two questionable goals in Game 5) with their supportive cheers after routine saves. They know the game and how this team feeds off of their support. Have a great start, get the crowd into it, and ride that wave of emotion and energy.