Kings stay on a roll and take Game 3, Hawks struggle to play a f -

Kings stay on a roll and take Game 3, Hawks struggle to play a full 60 minutes

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Kings continued on a roll and defeated the Blackhawks in Game 3 by a 4-3 margin. Don’t let the final score mislead you as the outcome wasn’t that close. The Hawks have had trouble playing a full 60 minutes and Los Angeles is firing on all cylinders.

The Hawks led by Jonathan Toews took an early lead and played well for the opening twenty minutes. Toews led the way by scoring twice and his first marker was while shorthanded. The Kings trailed by one going into the middle period and then the game turned.

In this post season the Hawks have had trouble in the second of period of games. In the middle frame of Game 3, although Los Angeles recorded only four shots on goal they made the most of their chances. The Kings scored twice to take the lead and then early in the third period to take control. Patrick Sharp scored with only five seconds remaining to make the score look close, but this night belonged to Los Angeles.

A determined effort and a high battle level is there at times for the Blackhawks but it fades. It is beginning to look like the gas tank is low for Chicago and that wouldn’t be a shock. The Hawks have played a lot of hockey in the last two years. Although LA has played two-seven games series, they appear the fresher club in the late going.

This campaign wasn’t a cakewalk to a Central Division title. Joel Quenneville’s hand was forced as the Hawks couldn’t string together wins in the last half of the season. They seldom seem to have an easy game and rarely was the workload for core players lessened as every point mattered.

The Blackhawks are a team of proven winners but it is very difficult to succeed at this time of year with only one line playing well. Toews and Marian Hossa were flying early as the first line held their own. The performances by the other three lines was spotty or almost invisible at times.

The lack of a true second line center has been a sore point for Blackhawk fans for years. It shouldn’t be forgotten the Hawks didn’t have a true second line center in 2010 or in 2013 either.

Compared to today, there were important difference in both Cup years as every line consistently contributed. Also, the bottom six forwards for Chicago were the best in the league. Since 2014 began the third line has been MIA in the majority of games.

Last night Andrew Shaw returned but it is difficult to remember one strong shift for the third line. Shaw did have six hits but he didn’t record a shot on goal and was 0 for 7 in the faceoff circle.

Going into the series the Hawks had the reputation as the deeper squad but the exact opposite has been true. LA has had better balance and more lines playing well. Their defensemen have been good and have chipped in with some goals. The Kings have also had the better goaltender as Jonathan Quick has outplayed Corey Crawford since Game 1.

To win at this time of the year a team needs all lines contributing and a hot goalie, the Blackhawks have had neither. The Chicago special teams haven’t added much of late. Last night the power play failed on four attempts as Quick was a big factor.

The Blackhawks penalty killing unit allowed one goal on three attempts but it could have been worse if not for Crawford. The penalty kill has started to resemble the sub-par group of the first half of the season. During the Blues series the penalty kill was aggressive and took away shots from the St. Louis point men. Now the LA point men have too much time and space. The Kings were firing from close range, near the top of the faceoff circles, and that increases the likelihood of success.

Another difference is the play of two older players who had a great run in the 2013 post season. Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival haven’t been nearly as effective as last year. Duncan Keith could be hurt but he has struggled as well.

Last season the Hawks won the opening match versus Detroit and then dropped three straight. With a ton of determination and some luck the Blackhawks won three consecutive games and advanced. The way things look now a loss on Monday could put the Hawks into a 3-1 hole they won’t be able to climb out of.

The champs are the champs until beaten and with a Game 4 win the Hawks grab home ice advantage back. That may be enough of an edge so the Blackhawks could get another crack at the Stanley Cup.

The Kings have been the better club in this series and they are a seasoned playoff team. If they capture Game 4 the Hawks chances to advance would be slim.

I will be back on Tuesday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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