Some thoughts heading into tonight's pivotal third game in the Western Conference Final:
Either way, it points to the fact that laying back in the neutral zone isn't working for
It's probably not coincidental that these young Hawks are more effective on the road (7-1) than at home, where they're just 3-3. To this point, they've displayed a perfectly natural tendency to play to the crowd, to go for the roar, instead of settling for the simpler game that's been the key to their successful travels. The Hawks will check into a local hotel after today's morning skate in an effort to replicate the road atmosphere, but there's more to it than mini-bars, Toblerones and being excused from taking out the trash, right? It's going to come down to their mindset on the ice. If they can remove themselves from the emotions of the crowd, they're more likely to play the kind of game that will put them up 3-0.
To a man, the Sharks understand that if they're going to beat
The coach noted in a postgame press conference that Heatley is getting his chances (seven shots through the first two games) and that a sniper will eventually start converting, but it sounded more like hope than a certainty. Remember, Heatley missed Game 3 of the Colorado series with a lower body injury and his effectiveness has been limited ever since. He's still finding the seams positionally, but it doesn't look like he's getting much power on the puck once it gets to him. That was evident in Game 1 when he was set up twice in close by his linemates, only to flutter shots into Niemi's midsection. The Sharks need more finish from Heatley to turn this series around, but he might not have much more to give.
The Sharks weren't bad in Game 1, but they clearly weren't as sharp as Chicago. The Blackhawks took longer to find their legs, but did a better job of maintaining them. Like injuries and travel, a prolonged break in the schedule is one of the hazards that has to be negotiated in the pursuit of the Cup...but some hurdles are harder to clear than others.