Chicago Blackhawks capture Game 4 with champion effort

Blackhawks capture Game 4 with champion effort

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On a night when a collective team effort at a high level would be necessary for a win, the Chicago Blackhawks came away with a Game 4 victory by a 3-2 score. The Hawks were without their best defender in Duncan Keith who was serving a one game suspension but still managed to snap the Kings 15 game home winning streak.

Jonathan Quick didn't have his best game and the same could be said about Corey Crawford. Quick would normally stop a long range shot from the red hot Bryan Bickell that accounted for the first Chicago tally. Crawford's rebound control and ability to get to pucks near his crease could have been better. That was the case when Dustin Penner outworked Sheldon Brookbank as Crawford struggled, giving the Kings a 2-1 lead early in period two.

What Crawford did accomplish is what he has done throughout the playoffs. As the Hawks were down by a goal on two separate occasions Crawford was able to keep the deficit from growing larger. He made a huge save on a Justin Williams breakaway while the Kings were leading 2-1 in the middle frame. Crawford made an all important stop and gave his club their best chance to battle back.

As was written here Thursday, the Hawks would have a chance to win if they could keep the game close because LA doesn't usually score much. If the Kings would have gotten their third goal it would have given them a two goal margin and the outcome might have been different. Asking the Kings to win a game by having to score more than three goals is a difficult task.

There is a great deal of praise to go around for the entire Blackhawks lineup but the defense deserves to be complimented first. Two players that contributed a lot with were Johnny Oduya and Michal Rozsival. They both needed to step up in a big way and did just that.

Oduya was criticized here and other places for bailing out on hits during Game 3, but Thursday night he had one of his best performances of the playoffs. Oduya's pass to Michal Handzus which sprung the play for Marian Hossa's game winning goal was top notch. Oduya played almost 23 minutes and did so with confidence. He was also a big reason why the Kings were scoreless on three power play attempts.

Rozsival did everything well Thursday night and his veteran presence helped fill the void from the suspended Keith. Rozsival may be the best sixth defenseman in the NHL today but there was a time when he was relied on to contribute much more.

Rozsival signed on with the Rangers as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2008. At that time he inked a four year, $24 million contract. Thursday night Rozsival played over five minutes on the power play and had over two minutes on the penalty killing unit. In his 25:28 of ice time Rozsival did everything well and one can see why in his younger days he commanded such a big pay day.

Niklas Hjalmarsson has played at a high level throughout the playoffs. He came back from making a painful shot block in Game 3 and didn't look any worse for wear. Hjalmarsson can handle punishment and doesn't back down. As usual, he was a big part of the penalty killing unit and even contributed with two assists. Hjalmarsson is one of the more underrated players in the NHL. It is nice to see him get some national recognition because he has been very impressive.

Brent Seabrook's 26:20 of playing time led all players in Game 4, and he had a big part in the victory. Seabrook took hits and dished some out as well. He recorded almost nine minutes of special team ice time. Seabrook kept his composure and had three shot blocks to lead the Hawks in that category.

Nick Leddy was paired with Brookbank which meant he wasn't going to see a lot of ice time. Joel Quenneville relied heavily on four defensemen not five, but Leddy contributed when he could.

Brookbank has not played since April 27 and it showed. He made the wrong read on the Kings first goal and was completely out of position. On the second LA score he lost a puck battle to Penner. Brookbank was in a tough spot and not much more could be expected, the effort was there but the rust was a bit much to overcome.

Patrick Kane finally scored a goal which was probably headed across the goal line anyway and would have been credited to Bickell.

More important was Quenneville finally got Kane away from Handzus and that made a difference in the outcome. Kane has to play with the puck on his stick and the faster the pace the better. Being on a line with Handzus doesn't help Kane play his game, and he hasn't been able to find a way to be a significant factor for quite awhile.

Handzus shouldn't be faulted as he can't travel form end to end on every rush. So Handzus does what he has been asked to do and takes care of the defensive side of the puck first. Hossa had an excellent outing and he plays a more north-south game which seems to click with Handzus. That's what happened when the Hawks scored their second goal.

As was written here a few times, playing Kane with Handzus doesn't put him in the best position to succeed. With Kane joining Jonathan Toews and Bickell the pace of the game is faster and that's exactly what the Blackhawks need to be at their best. Maybe someday Kane will learn how to be more effective no matter who he plays alongside.

For now to have the best chance to end this series on Saturday night Quenneville should keep Kane with Toews. If those two can help get more offensive zone time and play at a fast pace, as was the case Thursday night, the Hawks can end this series at the United Center.

The Hawks captain played with a lot of jump as did many others.

Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik continue to impress. Even Dave Bolland was noticeable with some good shifts on the fourth line. Kruger and Frolik are showing the world they are two of the top penalty killers in the game.

Closing the series out in Game 5 will require the same kind of effort as Thursday night as the Blackhawks haven't played better than in the final frame. The Hawks controlled the neutral zone and looked as if they were skating with the man advantage the entire time.

The Kings, in a must win situation, on home ice while trailing for almost the entire time were held to only two shots in the third period. It's not an overstatement to say that type of performance, done without the best defenseman, was remarkable.

No matter what sport, the champion is always the club that can consistently play at a high level throughout the lineup. When a quality team is defeated a common reason is because their best players don't make a difference. In Game 4 Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown as a group recorded only one shot on goal.

In Game 4, the Blackhawks had many difference makers. The type of effort the Hawks put forth was that of a champion.

I will be back on Sunday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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