Hawks’ speedy third line could pose problems for Kings
BY MARK LAZERUS firstname.lastname@example.org May 31, 2013 9:28PM
24.8 Shots per game for the Kings, which ranks last among the 16 playoff teams. The Blackhawks average 33.9, third in the postseason.
27:57 Average ice time per game for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, which ranks third in the playoffs.
237 Edge in hits the Kings have over the Blackhawks in the postseason, 536-299.
Updated: July 2, 2013 8:11AM
Despite all the star power at the top of the Blackhawks’ lineup, it was the third line of Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg that went into overtime of Game 7 against the Red Wings expecting to win the game and the series.
“All three of us felt like we were going to score it,” Stalberg said. “We had a lot of chances, and it felt like we were playing well and really had the puck in their end most of the night.”
Indeed, the third line was the Hawks’ best line in Game 7. The new configuration seemed to re-energize Saad, who was all over the ice and aggressively attacking the net, and Stalberg, who used his speed to create several good scoring chances. The top line had a combined seven shots on goal. The third line had 10 — six of them by Stalberg.
It’s an unusually speedy line for a so-called checking line, and it could give the Kings’ third unit of Dwight King, Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown fits.
Saad still doesn’t have a goal in the postseason, but the rookie has been knocking on the door of late. The fact that he had his best game in the biggest game is encouraging.
“It’s Game 7; it means everything,” Saad said. “A lot of guys came out with some jump, and I just tried to use my speed and be effective out there. Even though our line didn’t produce a goal, we had a lot of offensive zone time and chances.”
The Rolling Stones are appearing at the United Center on Friday and Monday, forcing the Hawks and Kings to play Games 1 and 2 on Saturday and Sunday. Considering how grueling the Detroit series was for the Hawks, and that the Kings (who won their Game 7 on Tuesday) got an extra day off leading up to the series, it could put the Hawks at a disadvantage.
“I don’t understand the schedule, why they decided it that way,” Marian Hossa said. “But it is what it is; we just have to face it.”
Said Jonathan Toews: “I don’t think it’s an advantage or disadvantage for either team. It’s the same for both teams. We’re both coming into this third round off of big highs, off of winning those seventh games. I don’t think it really matters.”
Hawks general manager Stan Bowman will have a difficult offseason, with several key players becoming free agents — including Nick Leddy, Bryan Bickell, Ray Emery and Stalberg — and the salary cap dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million. But the Game 7 victory pushed those decisions off for now.
‘‘We’ve got some plans in place; we’ve got an idea where we’re going to go with things,” Bowman said.
“We understand that you have a job to do when the season ends. But we’re not focused on the season ending; we’re looking at trying to keep things going.”