One of the reasons Surly and I started this site, besides having a place to curse as we please, was to create a community where puck heads got to talk puck. You look around the internet at websites and “blogs” writing about hockey and they either read like they were written by a 16-year-old kid whose new favorite thing is statistics or photoshop. You can search all you want for actual intelligent hockey discussion but you will be left wanting but for very rare exceptions. But hey, different styles suit different folks. At least the stat geeks have a following now in the mainstream hockey media. And yes, Corsi still sucks.
How did I get off topic?
Back on topic.
When the Hawks first won the Cup this decade back in…shit, what was that, 2010? When they did that, two things jumped out at me. They had drafted their core – Toews, Kane, Keith, and Seabrook and built around it. And it worked. The second thing was how different they played than so many other teams. They didn’t play physical. They didn’t hit all that much. They were all about puck possession. It was literally the Detroit Red Wings of those formidable years – copied and pasted.
Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten all of this until we played them again on Sunday. I was curious after the game and so I went and looked up a STAT! I did, I swear. The number 1 team in hits for the 2013-2014 season. Ready? Come on, say it…okay, the Los Angeles Kings.
The number 30 team in hits…
Really? Picking your nose could not wait. Okay, whatever.
The Chicago Blackhawks.
No shit. We hit over 30 times per game. They hit less than 17.
Are you surprised? I am not. Know why? Because they DON’T HIT! Just watch the games. They don’t care. These guys have very little of the heavy game in their game. Look at their lineup. Take out Bickell and Handzus and you have a pretty average sized team on offense. Seabrook is the only exception on defense.
Not a big team.
Not a big hitting team.
Not a team that looks to play much along the boards.
Their offensive system is based on puck possession throughout the neutral zone and forward. They don’t dump much. They don’t chase. They keep the puck on their sticks.
On defense, they are aggressive as hell, especially with their sticks. That jumped out at me in the first game and brought back unpleasant memories of last season’s playoffs. The word “stick check” is taken to an extreme with these jerks. And they are pretty good at creating turnovers as a result.
But when you think about it, doesn’t it make perfect sense? Look at their coach. Besides a ball grabbing fetish, the guy’s coaching style fits this to a tee. And Stan Bowman is their GM, right? There you go. Like father…
So, how do we stop that?
You hit the shit out of them.
I am not advocating anyone take out Hossa’s head like Torres did in 2012 (at least not publicly)…that wouldn’t be very sportsmanlike.
But what we must do is to get Chicago to play our game, the one they are not built to play, don’t want to play, and cannot play.
As much as they want an extreme game of keep away with finesse, we play a blue-collar, in your face, net crashing and bone rattling game. That is what we are built for and I don’t want to get into a foot race with a road runner. And if the occasional elbow comes up on Hossa or Keith’s face when the ref is not looking, it happens. It’s not like they don’t deserve it.
Guess what else? When the higher end skill is needed to balance it out, we got it. Kopitar, Gaborik, Carter, Williams, please, I put them up against anyone on the Blackhawks, especially with a helping of Toffoli and Pearson who are a big part of the balance and can get open and get dangerous if we play our edgy and physical game. We also have Drew Doughty who needs to play closer to the definition of his last name in game two.
As to specifics:
1. We cannot forecheck with an F1 and F2 staying back. That’s what they expect. I know their transition game is a good one but at some point you have to trust your defensemen to defend and for your forwards to back check. I am not saying send three forwards in every time but they must have the green light when they see the play…that assumes a dump and chase of course. If we can keep the puck, keep it.
2. Funnel, funnel, funnel, that puck to the middle. Force the Blackhawks to work in small spaces and let them help to build that traffic in front of Crawford. Teams like the Hawks like to spread out the offense and defense. They rely on turnovers and their forwards aggressively pushing the puck up the ice from their own zone. That is hard to do when you are forced to defend in a tight box.
3. I don’t want to see Doughty rushing the puck up too much. That may be dangerous against these guys. Instead, I would like to see Doughty less aggressive and the forwards more aggressive. But when Doughty does get the puck, shoot it and keep that shot low. While the Blackhawks did block a decent amount of shots, I am not ready to give them credit for it. They weren’t setting out to do it. It was more a case of us just holding on to the puck too long. If you give Surly time to get in front of the puck, he will block it too…and then limp off the ice while he curses in a sequence that would have made George Carlin proud.
Talk among yourselves now.
Go Kings Go!
Categories: L.A. Kings News