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THN at the Stanley Cup: Blackhawks aim to improve puck possession

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

PHILADELPHIA – The NHL no longer keeps time of possession as an official statistic, but it’s fair to say the Philadelphia Flyers would have a huge edge in this Stanley Cup final if it did.

Which is funny, because the Chicago Blackhawks are a puck-possession team, but it seems as though they’re so obsessed with the matchups they’ve forgotten they’re actually the better team. And they’re not controlling the puck the way they would like to, something they hope will change in Game 4.

“I think that’s fair to say,” said Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp when asked if puck possession was a problem. “At times, we’re playing the way we want and we’ve had good stretches. But I think there’s still room for improvement in our game and we have yet to play our best game. But sometimes you have to give the other team credit. They’re in the Stanley Cup final for a reason. We’d like to hold the puck a little bit more and play our style of play, for sure.”

Defenseman Brian Campbell said part of the problem is that when the Blackhawks have had the puck on their sticks, they’ve undermined themselves by making bad passes and turning the puck over in the neutral zone. The Flyers, on the other hand, have done a very good job at controlling the puck despite the fact Chicago had a huge edge in the faceoff circle in Game 1 and a slight edge since then.

“Last game was better for sure,” Patrick Kane said. “I still think we’ve got more in the tank as far as controlling the pace in their end and having some shifts where we’re really dominating the puck and I think that goes for all four lines. We’ve been a great team in (the opposing) zone for the whole year (and) we should bring it more to this series.”

Andrew Ladd was under the impression on Thursday that he would be in the lineup for Game 4, but the Hawks are still saying it would be a game-time decision. Chances are, if Ladd comes back in, either Adam Burish or Tomas Kopecky will come out. Ladd would give Chicago a physical element, but that will be negated unless the Hawks decide they actually want to establish a forecheck for the first time in this series.

For Philly, there was speculation James van Riemsdyk would make his return to the lineup, but Andreas Nodl could get the tap instead. The likely candidate to come out would be Daniel Carcillo, who has done little for the cause with the exception of taking some very ill-advised penalties at crucial times.

Flyers coach Peter Laviolette has tinkered with his lines, but one that will definitely stay intact is the second unit of Daniel Briere between Scott Hartnell and Ville Leino. And despite the struggles from the top unit of Mike Richards between Simon Gagne and Jeff Carter, Laviolette said he will keep the threesome together. He said that unit had 20 attempts at the Chicago net in Game 3.

“(The Briere line is) playing terrific hockey right now for us,” Laviolette said. “Their line has been excellent.”

Ken Campbell is on the road following the Stanley Cup final and will be filing daily blogs until a champion is crowned.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears regularly and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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