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Farrish: Issues on defense wearing down Blackhawks

by Dan Rosen / NHL.com

For additional insight into the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks during the Stanley Cup Final, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Dave Farrish to break down the action. Farrish will be checking in throughout the series.

Farrish was an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs from 2005-14. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007. He also coached 1,027 games in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Farrish, a former defenseman, played 430 games in seven seasons in the NHL.

For the Chicago Blackhawks to even the series before it shifts back to Tampa Bay, ex-NHL assistant coach Dave Farrish thinks they're going to have to get their focus back to attacking for 60 minutes.

When the Blackhawks have attacked against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final, particularly in the first period of Game 3 on Monday at United Center, they have been able to control the play and dominate possession. But Farrish thinks mentally the Blackhawks are consumed with helping out their depleted defense corps and over time it's showing.

Jonathan Toews has one point, an assist on Brent Seabrook's goal in Game 2. Patrick Kane has been held off the scoresheet completely. Patrick Sharp has no goals and one assist.

Tampa Bay leads the best-of-7 series 2-1 with Game 4 set for Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"In order to win this series the Blackhawks are going to have to get production out of their top lines and some more offense out of [Duncan] Keith and Seabrook, and even [Niklas] Hjalmarsson being involved more in an offensive role," Farrish said. "One of the issues is I think they're focusing a little bit more on defense right now because of the issues with their backend."

Farrish is referencing the ice time that Chicago's top four defensemen have received.

Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya have combined to play 303:16 in the series. Chicago's other three defensemen who have played in the series, Kyle Cumiskey, David Rundblad and Trevor van Riemsdyk, have combined to play 41:58.

For the top four defensemen, this ice time is on top of the heavy minutes they played in the first three rounds.

Keith is averaging 31:20 per game. Seabrook is at 26:29 and Hjalmarsson is at 25:59. Oduya, who missed the last 7:44 of the second period in Game 3 and was therefore held to 16:47 in the game, is averaging 24:44 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Oduya is questionable for Game 4.

"Maybe this is the wearing down that we've been expecting all along," Farrish said. "Maybe that is starting to happen at this point. I definitely think if they're helping their defensemen by trying to worry about them so much I think that's going to take away from their offense. They're going to have to live with what they've got."

Farrish also credited the Lightning with turning the momentum on the Blackhawks in Game 3 by deciding to scrap what he felt was their original game plan of worrying about matchups in order to just focus on rolling their lines and defense pairs.

The Lightning were outshot 19-7 in the first period of Game 3; they outshot the Blackhawks 17-7 in the second period. Chicago had a 12-8 advantage in shots on goal in the third, but the Lightning scored 13 seconds after Chicago did to tie the game and won it on Cedric Paquette's goal at 16:49.

"One of the issues with matching lines is you're so busy changing that the other team has the puck, they have control and possession, so they can control the flow of the game and it seems like all you're doing is conceding, and receiving wave after wave after wave," Farrish said. "You could see how the ice got tilted in the second half of the first period. They finally realized they're not going to survive doing that, receiving all night, so they went back to playing more of a possession game of their own and they certainly took over from there. They looked like a totally different team in the second period than the one that finished the first.

"So, a great coaching move to decide to do that. There is always a Plan B, and I'm sure that was in their back pocket and they switched to it and they were very good at it."

Farrish, though, has seen the Blackhawks be so good for so long that even with his questions about how they've played so far he still thinks they are going to come back and play a strong Game 4. He thinks players like Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith and Seabrook will step up.

"They have a veteran group and they have lots in their reserve," Farris said. "You can look at the players and say they're playing too much, but their level of play hasn't really dropped off as far as energy. I think a lot of it might be mentally holding back because of the defensive responsibilities that they are assuming rather than thinking about the offensive responsibilities. But they know they're going to have to score goals and I think you'll see a big game out of their top-six guys coming up in the next game.

"You're looking for somebody to step up and provide a spark for your hockey club. It doesn't necessarily have to be the big guns, but I think the big guns will step up."

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