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04-03-2009, 05:22 PM
Seth Lake
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Keys to the game:

1) Must Bottle Up Neutral Zone - Chicago loves to attack with speed. They love to get the puck in the hands of a forward rushing through the neutral zone with a full head of steam to push back the defense and create opportunities off the rush. Gotta work as a team to angle puck-carrier and limit opportunities for them to carry puck into zone. Whether it is off a regroup or straight breakout, we must limit Chicago's opportunities in transition.

2) Communication and teamwork in Defensive Zone - Something very noticeable about the Hawks offensive zone offense (cycling) was that they utilize a "triangle" offense where one player is always in the near corner, one somewhere around the strongside faceoff dot, and one in the low slot area. Chicago loves to work their offense through the man low in the corner forcing the defense to turn towards the puck and divert their attention to what is behind them, allowing Chicago to find and set up in quiet zones in the defense. Lots of give and go's and quick passes to the front of the net or out to the man standing alone at the faceoff dot for uncontested shots. Must work as a team here to limit opportunities and make sure that all switches are communicated and all options are covered to the best of our abilities.

3) Must limit zone time against - When we get Chicago to dump the puck in, we must get it out first time, every time. When Pekka makes a save and allows a rebound, we must get to the loose puck and clear it first time, every time. When we strip a puck-carrier, we must pounce on that loose puck and clear it first time, every time. Cycles must be stopped whenever they get going before they are able to wear us down and create chance(s) against.

4) Stay disciplined - Chicago likes to finish their checks. They are very protective of their goalies and will clear you out if you are standing around their crease. They are an aggressive team and if you give into them, they have plenty of weapons to make you pay for it on the scoreboard. Campbell is their PP breakout whenever he is on the ice. The Hawks will move the puck to Campbell, he will skate it up the ice looking to build up speed and create an opportunity, but if you angle him and deny him a head of steam he will dump the puck in. Once they gain possession in the zone, they keep possession. Maintain position and attack passes whenever possible. Keep the play to the perimeter and keep the front of the net clean (Byfuglien). Clear rebounds and loose pucks, rinse and repeat.

Something to watch especially in the second period (due to the long change) is that Khabibulin very often passes the puck immediately up to the PP when it is cleared down ice. Must keep puck away from Khabibulin whenever possible and insure that we have men in position to defend whenever the puck is quickly moved back up ice for the PP to attack.

5) Must get offense from more than one line - Against Columbus it was painfully obvious that only the O'Reilly line with Sully and Ward were able to generate any offensive pressure on a consistent basis. Trotz commented on this after the game (thankfully) and has adjusted the lines to try to generate some more offensive chances. Our new lines while not pretty do have balance and IMO matchup against Chicago pretty well. Hornqvist is being given his first true opportunity to play top-six minutes since early in the season and must step up and produce tonight. Not expecting anything from our shutdown line (Bonk), but I believe the team is looking for Santorelli and Ortmeyer to use the chemistry they built playing together with the Ads to generate a little offense in their limited minutes playing on the fourth line.

Defense must be involved in the offense tonight as well. Weber, Suter, Hamhuis, and Klein must get some pucks on net and look to jump into the rush whenever appropriate to create some chances and work to generate some opportunities for the forwards to pop home rebounds, set screens, and tip some pucks past Khabibulin. As was shown in Columbus though, gotta be smart about this and must have support covering back whenever we get a defenseman pinching on a 50/50 puck.

Bonus key) Must get a quick start to the game. Generate early offensive opportunities and try to keep the Chicago offense at bay by making them play defense. St. Louis failed to do this and had only 9 shots on goal for the whole game late in the third because of it.

Chicago loves to use an aggressive 2-1-2 forecheck whenever they get the puck in deep. Their defense is very active pinching down the walls and will stay low to keep pressure on the wings if the play is there. If Chicago fails to get the puck deep, they will sit back in a 1-4 trap and make you skate right into them - denying speed and forcing dump-ins. Gotta get pucks deep and use our own forecheck to generate some offense tonight!

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