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Desjardins: Blackhawks must keep focus on checking

by Andrew Desjardins / NHL.com

Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins will be blogging for NHL.com periodically throughout the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In this edition, he explains the Blackhawks' focus on playing well defensively and how that helped protect their lead in Game 4.

CHICAGO -- We're halfway through the series now and it's down to a best-of-3.

We didn't know much about the Lightning when the series began other than what we saw on video and the few times we get to play them in the [regular season], but we're starting to learn a lot about them.

First of all, we've realized how good of a checking team they can be and how we have to be good with the puck. We have to out-battle them. They battle hard along the walls and they're good in the gritty areas. They're not a super-big team, but they're gritty in those areas.

I can't say we're really that surprised about that. Maybe we didn't know exactly how good they were at checking, but I think the perception everyone had that this would be a big offensive series was wrong. That checking game is really important in the playoffs, and you're seeing that.

You've got dangerous players on both teams, so I think you have to have that mentality.

A checking series suits us just fine. When we do things right, when we check right, we're pretty successful. That's what we've focused on this whole series; if we play well defensively, if we check well, the offense will take care of itself.

We did a great job of that at the end of Game 4 to protect our 2-1 lead, even though the Lightning were buzzing around our end.

I think we were in as much control as we could be. You're trying as much as you can to keep everything to the outside, and for the most part I thought we did a good job of that. I think we could have been a little bit more relaxed, but we've been in these situations throughout the playoffs and I think we've found ways to get it done. That was another case of it, and Corey Crawford did really well to hold that lead. Our defense did really well also with some big blocks, and we did the same thing to them in other games when they've been up. I think it goes both ways. That kind of thing happens in hockey when you're pushing for that one goal.

Looking ahead to the three-game series we have in front of us, I think we've been doing good things at certain times. But we need to do predictable things with the puck, smart things; we had a few too many turnovers in Game 4 and that needs to stop.

We had some trouble coming out of our own end and we generally agree that we need to be better in that area, and I'm sure we will be. But there are a lot of variables to that, it's not just the person with the puck, it's the guys supporting.

We need to take care of the puck a lot better and play that checking style.

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