Blackhawks must put pretty plays away - FOX 32 News Chicago

Blackhawks must put pretty plays away, find winning formula in game 4

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Blackhawks went into Tuesday night's game with hopes of keeping home ice advantage and pulling ahead in the series. Instead they are now faced with a near must win situation in Game 4.

The Blackhawk players, coaching staff and fans are very upset with the flagrant high hit delivered to Marian Hossa. It has been speculated Hossa could likely be unavailable for the remainder of this series.

The Blackhawks could be eliminated before Hossa is able to play and that would be a shame. To lose arguably the best all-around player on the club is a huge loss for the Blackhawks. There is no crying in the NHL and most around the league aren't overly concerned about the Hawks bad luck. Somehow, the Hawks have to channel their emotions as the best revenge would come with a series victory.

Injuries have to be expected in the playoffs. Last year the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup without their top center Marc Savard. He has been forced to curtail his playing career because of lasting concussion issues.

By losing Hossa to injury and Andrew Shaw to a suspension, the Hawks are without two players who have a particular skill set which can't be replaced. Maybe it will be too much to overcome.

Forward Brandon Saad is a highly thought of Hawk prospect, who turned some heads in training camp. After playing in two regular season games, Saad was returned to the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League and had a fine campaign.

Now that his junior hockey season is over, Saad was named a "Black Ace", along with a few other players from the Rockford Ice Hogs. Being brought up in the postseason to be around the big club is more a perk for a job well done than anything else. The term Black Aces normally refers to reserves that only play in extreme circumstances.

With Hossa out, the Blackhawks are in a difficult spot and Saad has a good chance to dress Thursday night. If you think playing a junior player like Saad in the playoffs indicates some desperation, I would agree.

Hawks AHL prospect, center Brandon Pirri has had a fine campaign at a higher level of play than Saad. Rockford winger Jeremy Morin hasn't had an outstanding season with the Ice Hogs but he has been considered a top prospect. Both of those boys won't like Saad playing with the big club ahead of them, if that is the decision to come down Thursday.

GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville aren't the least bit concerned with hurt feelings or bruised egos. They know the Hawks can't afford another loss, regaining momentum on home ice is necessary. If Saad does play, maybe he can capture lightning in a bottle for at least a few games.

Blackhawk fans need something to cheer about, but it would be wise to remember Saad is only 19-years-old. He is a physically mature young player and had a successful year playing against those his own age. Competing against men at the most intense time of the season won't be easy for Saad. Although with a decent showing, Saad will increase his chances to be a full-time Blackhawk come the fall.

Maybe being angry will cause the Hawks to bring a better effort. So far they have not been able to seize control of a single game in this series. This could be because the Blackhawks aren't able to play as a team as well as the Coyotes. Game 3 should have been the time to put the Coyotes in their place, but maybe that isn't possible.

Not to be lost in the horrible officiating, the suspension to Shaw and the injury to Hossa is the Blackhawks do have some warts. The Coyotes have done their best to expose some of the weaknesses.

To even this series and insure playing another game at the United Center, the cute plays and soft efforts will have to disappear.

Too often Patrick Kane and other forwards have looked to make an extra pass instead of firing shots at Mike Smith. Just a suggestion, but Smith's blocker seems to be very good so it might be time to aim elsewhere. There hasn't been a persistent effort to get traffic to the Coyotes net and that needs to change too.

In the defensive zone, the Blackhawks have been scattered. The Coyotes have forced the Hawks to play in their own zone for too long. The Coyote forecheck has led to some soft plays from Hawk defenders. Phoenix has been more of the puck control team, and has had the better scoring chances.

The lynchpin for a Blackhawk victory in Game 4 could be Corey Crawford. Judging from postgame comments following Game 3, Crawford gave the Coyotes some praise. He mentioned in the overtime period the Coyotes were attacking the Hawks in waves.

Unusually, players don't heap a lot of praise on the opposition. Actually the Hawks outshot Phoenix 6-2 in the extra period, so one has to wonder whether the Coyotes are in Crawford's head. Until the soft game-winning goal, Crawford was having a very good series and he needs to return to fine form.

Maybe Thursday night, Bryan Bickell will assume a more Shaw-like role and Saad can add some offense in Hossa's absence. Somehow the Blackhawks will have to find a winning formula.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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