Konroyd's keys for Game 3 of Blackhawks-Wild

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Konroyd's keys for Game 3 of Blackhawks-Wild

1. Continue to protect the lines

The two blue lines and center red lines are more than just for calling offsides and icings. They are a great gauge for defensemen when they don’t have the puck. Try not to back off the offensive blue line too quickly and allow easy breakouts for the other team. Force the attackers before they hit the center red line so that they make a bad pass or ice the puck. And finally, make a stand at your own blue line so that you are not giving up the zone and allowing the opposition to set up. The Blackhawks defensemen have done a masterful job in this respect as they have put a lot of pressure on the puck carrier. Numerous times In Game 2 either Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson or Brent Seabrook were forcing the issue at these lines and forcing the Wild into turnovers or slowing down their rush attack. Keep being aggressive at these three lines.

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2. Cover your prime real estate

The Blackhawks have done a great job of protecting the front of their own net and also Corey Crawford. The Wild are know as a team that attacks with speed, gets pucks deep, gets them back, and goes to the front of the net with their forwards and defensemen involved. That has not really happened in this series, aside from 10 minutes in the second period of Game 1. Not only have the Hawks been slowing down the Wild as a result of Key 1, they have been very quick to counter, getting back on dump-ins and starting the other way with perfect passes. The fact that the Hawks forwards are coming back hard and very deep in their own end has really helped this process. Minnesota will make a deliberate push to get some of their bigger bodies (Mikko Koivu, Thomas Vanek, Charlie Coyle) going hard to the blue paint.  Make sure there is a push back.

3. Keep it simple

The Wild are in a pretty precarious position right now. They are charged with the task of having to win four of their next five games against the Hawks in order to advance to the next round. Their best players have not been their best players, and there will be a huge push by their stars to be difference makers. Ryan Suter is a minus-13 in his 13 postseason games against Chicago during the last two-plus years. Koivu, their team captain, is a minus-12 with just two assists during the same time. These guys, among others, will be pressing and the best way to take advantage of that is to play a simple, disciplined game. This is a lot easier to do on the road, and we have seen Chicago play this patient style with great success in the first two games of this series.  

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

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It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.