CHICAGO – The special teams have been awful. The faceoff circle has been a huge problem. Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp have combined for one goal for the Chicago Blackhawks.
The defending Stanley Cup champions are in big trouble in the Western Conference final, down 3-1 to the rolling Los Angeles Kings.
But the Blackhawks are back at home for Game 5 on Wednesday night, and have dug out of similar trouble before.
“Just looking to win Game 5,” coach Joel Quenneville said after the Blackhawks arrived back in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon. “That’s it. Get the momentum back and go from there.”
The previous time this series was in Chicago, the Kings seized the momentum with a five-goal third period in a 6-2 victory in Game 2.
It carried right over to a pair of impressive victories in Los Angeles that moved the Kings to the brink of their second Stanley Cup Final in three seasons.
Los Angeles has shredded Chicago’s penalty-kill unit for five goals in its past 10 chances, while holding the Blackhawks to one power-play goal in their past 11 opportunities. Anze Kopitar and the Kings have won 58 per cent (106 of 184) of the faceoffs during the win streak, taking the puck-possession Blackhawks out of their game.
“It’s one of the things you look at with young centermen is how are they on faceoffs and are they working to improve on it,” Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. “It’s a special skill. It’s one of those stats in hockey when you say you’re 50 per cent, you know, if that was us in school, we’d be going again.”
The Kings’ big advantage against the Blackhawks is a far cry from the beginning of the playoffs, when they lost their first three games against San Jose. But they rallied past the Sharks in seven games, and then eliminated Anaheim after falling behind 3-2 in that series.
The twin rallies could help against Chicago. Los Angeles, which won the Stanley Cup in 2012, knows how important it is to quickly close out a team such as the Blackhawks while they are struggling.
“We’re expecting their best,” Kings centre Trevor Lewis said. “They’re back at home now. We’re expecting them to come out hard. I mean, they’re defending Cup champions. I don’t think they’re going to give up by any means.”
A year ago, the Blackhawks were down 3-1 to the Red Wings in the second round when they headed home for Game 5. Andrew Shaw then had two goals in a 4-1 victory that sparked a series-saving winning streak for Chicago.
The Blackhawks also lost their first three games in the first round against Vancouver in 2011, and got all the way back to a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 7. They are drawing on those experiences for this series, while acknowledging the surging Kings are an entirely different problem.
“We’re looking forward to getting out there tomorrow night,” defenceman Brent Seabrook said. “I know the guys were being upbeat on the plane this morning, at breakfast this morning. We’re looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and trying to get some momentum back and start feeling good about ourselves again.”
Seabrook and defensive partner Duncan Keith had one of their worst games of the season in Monday night’s 5-2 loss. Keith had a turnover that led to a Marian Gaborik goal, and Seabrook struggled on Chicago’s penalty-kill unit.
“I (have) got to be better. Doesn’t just start with a penalty kill. It’s every facet of the game,” Seabrook said. “We all got to be out there doing the things that are going to make us win the game.
“I think some things happened last game that are uncharacteristic, but at the same time you have to give L.A. credit. They’re forcing us into different situations. We (have) got to be better and we will be better.”
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap