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Murphy: Blackhawks will learn from loss, move on

by Adam Kimelman

For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks, has enlisted the help of former NHL assistant coach Gord Murphy to break down the action. Murphy will be checking in throughout the series.

Murphy enjoyed a 14-season career as an NHL defenseman before spending seven seasons as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets and most recently serving as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers.

The Chicago Blackhawks went from a 2-0 lead late in the second period of Game 2 of the Western Conference Final to 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

Though that could rattle some teams, longtime NHL assistant coach Gord Murphy isn't concerned with how the Blackhawks will react moving forward.

That starts with Game 3 on Saturday at Staples Center in Los Angeles (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

Murphy told he believes the Blackhawks will get right back to doing the things that made them successful in Game 1 and for most of Game 2.

"For Chicago heading into Los Angeles, they'll look to start the same way they have in the first two games of the series, then focus on maintaining their game for 60 minutes," he said. "For Chicago, what stood out is their speed, their quickness and pace of play. They had territorial advantage, spending very little time in the defensive zone, winning most of the loose-puck races, the battles and board battles. They were doing this with a combination of stubborn, tight gaps from their defensemen, good sticks, body positioning and quicker second-man support along with their excellent transition game."

Though the Blackhawks have been the better team through two games, in Murphy's opinion, the Kings winning in Chicago could provide a big boost. They had lost their past five regular-season and playoff games at United Center, including all three games there in the 2013 Western Conference Final.

"That win for Los Angeles does quite a bit for multiple reasons," Murphy said. "They were going to have to win at least one game in Chicago, and they did not want to go down 2-0. To come back from being down 2-0 late in the second period now gives L.A. tons of confidence."

One aspect of their comeback that caught Murphy's attention was a slight change in the structure of the Kings power play. The result was Jeff Carter's game-tying power-play goal 1:37 into the third and Jake Muzzin's go-ahead power-play goal at 4:04 of the final period.

"The Kings' adjustment on the power play of Drew Doughty moving to the middle at the top and focusing on getting the puck through to the net instead of being positioned off to the side and looking for the one-timer that was missing the net and clearing out the zone was big," he said. "Chicago's penalty killers do such a good job of fronting and positioning in the shot lanes. It appeared that L.A. changed their shot selection to a quick-release snap or wrist shot looking to get the puck though to the net-front area with a good screen playing for redirects and rebounds."

Another adjustment the Kings will have to make is defending against the Blackhawks' stretch passes. Chicago's goals in Game 2 came on similar long passes.

"The Kings defensemen must keep Chicago's forwards in front of them while maintaining tight gaps, limiting their ability to receive the stretch pass and make a play," Murphy said. "Along with their defensemen being aware, their third forward must work from a high position inside the dots, working to discourage the stretch pass, supporting the defensemen and negating any odd-man rush against."

Though the Kings certainly should feel good heading home for Game 3, Murphy believes the Blackhawks won't feel any hangover from their loss in Game 2.

"I don't believe it is that big a blow to Chicago," he said. "They were playing a great game for 38 minutes, but let off the gas and took a few costly penalties early in the third. They will learn from that game, focus on positives and move forward."


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