Five things to watch in Game 4
May, 23, 2013
By Scott Powers | ESPNChicago.com
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsJonathan Toews and the Hawks have to find a way to solve the hot goaltending of Jimmy Howard.DETROIT -- Here are five things to watch for between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Thursday:
1. Special teams: The Blackhawks and Red Wings both believe they're due for a power-play goal. If one team can break through, it could be the difference in a tight game. The Blackhawks are 1-for-9 on the power play in the series, and the Red Wings are 0-for-12. The Blackhawks' penalty kill hasn't allowed a goal on 29 tries in the playoffs. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville mixed up his power-play units during Wednesday's practice. One unit included Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell, and the other unit included Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw. Dave Bolland and Michal Rozsival also rotated into the second group.
2. Toews & Saad scoring slump: Blackhawks forwards Brandon Saad and Toews have yet to score in eight playoff games this season after combining for 33 regular-season goals. Both have been close to scoring in recent games. Toews took a game-high seven shots on goal in Game 3, and Saad has 11 shots on goal in the series. Quenneville has tried to get both players going by altering his top two lines. Saad was moved from the top line to the second line and put alongside Kane and Bolland, and Sharp was moved to the top line beside Toews and Hossa.
3. Faceoff problems: The Blackhawks have lost the faceoff battle in each of the series' first three games. The Red Wings won 32-29 in Game 1, 31-25 in Game 2 and 37-29 in Game 3. Quenneville said improving on faceoffs is a must for Game 4. Both teams had a 50.8 faceoff winning percentage during the regular season and were among the top-11 teams in the league.
4. Playoff partners: A couple Blackhawks and Red Wings appear to have found dancing partners for the remainder of the season. Bickell and the Red Wings' Daniel Cleary created some bad blood in Game 3, and Shaw and the Red Wings' Brendan Smith did the same. Bickell joked about his feud with Cleary on Wednesday. "We've been talking on the ice a little bit," Bickell said. "We were talking about what we were going to have for postgame meal and things like that. There will probably be some more talking going on, but it's all hockey."
5. Howard factor: The Blackhawks may accomplish everything they set out to do in Game 4 and still lose because of the play of Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard. Howard has been a difference-maker at times in the first two series. He's especially played well when the pressure has been on him. He's made 30-plus saves in six of the playoff games, and the Red Wings have gone 4-2 in those games. He's coming off a 39-save performance in Game 3.