Chicago defensive depth becomes an issue in Western Conference Final

Chicago defensive depth becomes an issue in Western Conference Final

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The fate of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final rests on Kyle Cumiskey and Kimmo Timonen.

At least that is how it’s playing out as we head into Tuesday’s night's tilt against the Ducks at Honda Center. Timonen played barely over five minutes in Game 1. Though you can put most playoff lineups in pencil until they're announced, Cumiskey likely replaces David Rundblad, a one-time higher-level prospect who was on-ice for two Anaheim goals in the Ducks’ 4-1 win over Chicago.

They are the soft underbellies of the Blackhawks’ defense. And by soft we mean, Jell-O soft. The Ducks exploited this lack of depth in Game 1 against Chicago. Will they again be the Hawks’ undoing in Game 2, or will Timonen and Cumiskey step up … or will coach Joel Quenneville play Duncan Keith 40 minutes in the full 60-minute regulation? If that’s the case, pray it doesn’t go to overtime.

“I think we're fine,” Quenneville said after the loss. “Every game's different. I think when you're not playing much, you want to play it safe, keep it simple as best you can. We'll work our way through it.”

It’s weird to think that an injury to Michal Rozsival could end up being a death knell to Chicago this postseason. I mean, this isn’t exactly a superstar we’re talking about. But Chicago clearly has an organizational depth issue at the position.

Timonen was not a good fit. He has been a placeholder for Chicago, basically being trotted on the ice in favorable match ups and asked to not make major mistakes. Come the third period, his sits on the bench.

Chicago gave up a second round draft pick and a conditional pick for Timonen.

Timonen hadn’t played for nine month due to blood clots, and at age 40, had to try to ramp it up quickly for a playoff push. So far, it has seemed like a doomed to fail situation and a miscalculation by Chicago.

Meanwhile, the Ducks gave up Ben Lovejoy for 23-year-old Simon Despres, who has played meaningful minutes for Anaheim. Great job by Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford on that gaffe of a deal. Sorry, it just needs to be said every time the Despres is referenced. That was thievery by Ducks general manager Bob Murray.

The 28-year-old, 5-foot-11 Cumiskey played seven games for Chicago last season and 139 total NHL games. Though Rundblad looked out of sorts in Game 1, Cumiskey isn’t exactly a great option as a replacement. This was partially made possible by Hawks defense prospect Stephen Johns suffering a broken arm Sunday. Talk about fortuitous timing. Then again, Johns hasn’t played an NHL game.

“I think he's one of those players that has a different dimension from the back end, jumping into the play, quickness, in and out of puck areas,” Quenneville said of Cumiskey. “He's got a different level of speed for a defenseman. I just think that depth organizationally, he's one of those kids that came into our organization at the start of the season that we're happy to have him. He didn't get a chance to play much this year, but we knew that he can play. He can be an asset, as well.”

That’s quite the praise. Let’s rename him Kyle Orr.

The Blackhawks may have the type of star power to overcome their lower-end defense issues. Duncan Keith is absurdly good, as noted in our story before the series. Brent Seabrook is a prolific possessor of the puck. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are also solid pieces.

The sum of those parts – especially the dynamic Keith brings – is high-end. But in the playoffs, especially against the four-line deep Ducks, you have to have three pairs that can absorb the pressure of Anaheim’s size. The Ducks on average are 6-foot-1, 208 pounds. The Blackhawks stand at 6-feet, 196 pounds.

“When you get guys playing a ton of minutes, it’s going to wear them down,” Ducks forward Ryan Kesler said. “We’ve got to invest in them physically.”

Hjalmarsson seemed just a little tired after a shift in Game 1?

Photo via YouTube screenshot
Photo via YouTube screenshot

As for the Ducks D depth in comparison to Chicago’s, James Wisniewski has not played this postseason, and averaged 21:11 during the regular season. There’s also Korbinian Holzer riding the Ducks bench.

Chicago must look over at Anaheim and wish it could change the CBA to make an in-series D trade with some team.

Quenneville knows he has Keith and Seabrook – two guys the Ducks seemingly can’t match. He’ll take his chances for now.

“Every game's different. Every shift's different. We'll see how the ice time is delegated by performance and by how things are going,” Quenneville said. “We know they're a physical team. That's part of it. We want to make sure we don't get distracted where we got to go to be successful.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!