Here is the latest installment of Ken Hitchcock's "What's the Hitch" analysis of the Western Conference Final, as the Sharks and Blackhawks get ready for Sunday afternoon's Game 4 in Chicago (NBC, TSN, RDS):
San Jose's "Hitch": Get production from top six forwards, win the special-teams game outright.
First shift: San Jose has played really well at times in this series. The difference is Chicago has played really well all of the time in the first three games. San Jose needs more players to engage offensively, especially the top six forwards, on all shifts. It can't just be the top line.
It's also necessary for the Sharks to win the special-teams game outright. Chicago has been winning that battle. First of all, you don't want to give Chicago momentum in a close-out game by taking penalties and, then when you get the power play, you need to score, you need to get to the rebounds.
Coach's eye for details: Niemi has been kicking out the rebounds beyond the traffic in front of the net.
San Jose has to create the cracks in Chicago, because Chicago is not going to create those cracks.
Final period: The team that wins Game 4 is likely to be the one that scores first. San Jose has been chasing the Blackhawks most of the series. When you score first, it seems like you can dictate the pace and tempo of the game.
Chicago's "Hitch": Continue to play with a sense of urgency.
First shift: Jonathan Toews put it best when he said the Blackhawks are playing every game right now like it is a Game 7. That is a great attitude. Except for the first period of the first game of this series, they have played eight straight periods with a great sense of urgency. It shows up in the results.
Coach's eye for details: (Marian) Hossa fits nicely into Chicago's game. He is sound defensively and solid offensively. This is the way he played in Pittsburgh and Detroit too. He never turns in a bad game. He is building good minutes (even without scoring goals in this conference final).
Final period: Chicago is getting scoring from its top players. They simply have more players doing more things offensively in this series.