Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Blackhawks defense looks to redeem itself in Game 3

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Because everybody loves a goaltender controversy, even when there is none, a reporter asked Blackhawks net minder Corey Crawford following Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings if he was suddenly feeling the pressure of a healthy Ray Emery behind him.

Crawford sighed and said, "No, not at all."

Of course, Crawford was hardly to blame the Game 2 defeat. His defense -- which has been so good all season -- all but abandoned him. On Detroit's second goal, Niklas Hjalmarsson fell down in his own end, leading to Brendan Smith's go-ahead goal. On the next one, Hjalmarsson was burned by Johan Franzen on a Jonathan Ericsson stretch pass. And on the last one, Brent Seabrook was beaten to a loose puck off a faceoff the Hawks actually won, leading to an end-to-end rush and a Valtteri Filppula goal.

The Hawks defense was determined to redeem itself in Monday's Game 3.

"Absolutely," Seabrook said. "We weren't happy with the way we played defensively as a group of defensemen. We've got to come out and have a better effort and give Crow a better opportunity to make some saves, and give him the chance to play well in there and not leave him out to dry."

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said the defensive problems went beyond the blue line. The Hawks' success this season has been built on team defense, from the forwards on back. But the Red Wings had their way in Game 2.

"Our whole team defensively was off," Quenneville said. "They attacked us well. And we didn't do a good job in certain areas of the rink. We gave up a lot more than we obviously did in the first game. We can be better in all areas, defensively."

In other news, Viktor Stalberg is indeed back in the lineup for Game 3, as Quenneville will reunite the highly successful third line of Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Stalberg. Stalberg had been benched for the first two games, with Dave Bolland playing center and Shaw moving to right wing. Bolland appears to be back on the second line with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, while Michal Handzus drops to the fourth line, moving Marcus Kruger (who has struggled mightily with faceoffs lately) to right wing and bumping Daniel Carcillo from the lineup.

"We have some options in games," Quenneville said. "We'll see how things are going. We came out of that first series, I thought as a team we could be better. But that [third] line for the majority of the season played together, and I thought they did a good job throughout most of the season. Viktor gives them some speed to that line, as well, that unpredictability off the rush. They did have a lot of offensive zone time this year."

Said Shaw: "It's good to get back together. We played well this year as a group, and having Stally back gives us that speed. We're ready to go."


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Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Lazerus published on May 20, 2013 11:53 AM.

Blackhawks winger Viktor Stalberg out for Game 2 was the previous entry in this blog.

Jonathan Toews staying patient despite scoring slump is the next entry in this blog.

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