The blue paint in front of each goal line has been prime real estate in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And no teams value it more than the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, a fact that was never more apparent than in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
In a 4-3 overtime victory, the Blackhawks scored on a stuff, two deflections and another shot from close range.
The Red Wings impeded the vision of the goaltender on each of their goals, which were scored by defensemen on shots from the point.
“It’s kind of the same old thing, especially when you get this far – every goalie stands on his head,” Blackhawks grinder Andrew Ladd told Inside Pittsburgh Sports after he beat Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood from outside the crease. “The best way to get to him is to create traffic and get pucks to the net. This game was probably the best that we’ve done that.”
If the Blackhawks even the series at 2-all at home on Sunday afternoon, then it is guaranteed to last six games. The question is, what physical price will they pay for their most recent victory?
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was lifted after two periods because of what was said to be a lower-body injury.
The 36-year-old veteran sat out practice the previous day but not because of health reasons.
In the first period, Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall knocked Martin Havlat unconscious for several seconds on a vicious and controversial check.
The dazed forward did not return to the game. According to head coach Joel Quenneville, Havlat “looked better” afterward, but like Khabibulin, his status is day-to-day.
In particular, the absence of Khabibulin for an extended period could be a crucial one.
The game action was the first for high-priced reserve Cristobal Huet in 41 days. The third goaltender is untested Corey Crawford, whose NHL career consists of seven games.