"Back From The Dead"
by Patrick Norton
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After Dr. Steve Konroyd projected the Blackhawks to take the division lead against Minnesota during the pregame report on Friday, the Blackhawks set out to make the doctor’s orders impossible. Dropping their last two games, a win against their rivals from the north had the possibility to springboard a nice run to cap off the regular season. Both teams were rested and healthy (except Martin Hanzal), so this was the ultimate match-up of who was the stronger team...in the regular season. Let’s get to the second round of the playoffs, already.
The first period started with a bang. A minute in, a deflection from a Minnesota defenseman from a Panarin pass found Kane in the slot. Kane doesn’t miss from the slot and Devan Dubnyk can’t save anything from the slot. Hot start for a team that usually produces a hot garbage start. Just a few minutes later, Panarin caught a pass from Kane and rifled another shot from the heart of the offensive zone and put the Hawks up by two. Then, in typical first period form, Chicago went back into their shell. Dubnyk was replaced five minutes in by Darcy Kuemper and momentum began to shift. Defense no longer stepping up and no offensive pressure allowed for the Wild to find their game. Offensive pressure paired with a horrendous clear-attempt turnover from yours truly, Brent Seabrook led to a gritty garbage goal off the stick of Eric Staal. Greaaaat. Can’t wait to hear about Staal’s growth with Minnesota for the rest of the game. After a late period penalty kill, the first came to a close. Momentum was back even, but the Hawks still held the tangible statistic on the scoreboard. Hawks held a 2-1 lead traveling into the second.
The second period started with lots of Wild pressure, but the tides quickly turned. Tootoo drew a penalty, but it never came into fruition. Kruger picked up the loose puck on the delayed penalty and shipped a one timer over to van Riemsdyk. TVR put it behind Kuemper and the Blackhawks had a two goal lead again. Then, it was pure mayhem. The final six minutes of the game provided end-to-end action. Relentless opportunities, but Crawford and Kuemper kept everything out of the twine. At the end of the second, the Hawks increased their lead for the third, 3-1.
The thir… ohp! Mikael Granlund unassisted past Crawford less than a minute into the third and it’s a one goal game again. Then Jonas Brodin cleared the puck over the boards and the increasing momentum came to a two minute halt. Some late PP pressure wasn’t enough for the Blackhawks and the extra man advantage was wasted. Once again, some more end-to-end play had both teams striving for a whistle, but nothing would do it. Crawford and Kuemper stayed strong and a whistle finally blew with just over eleven minutes remaining in the third. The Wild began to attack ferociously, but Crow held his own. Then a Keith pass to a springing Hossa resulted in a breakaway half-slapper. A lucky break for the Hawks and just like that, it was a two goal lead with just over five minutes remaining. Then, what a late period choke by the Wild. Desjardins drew a tripping minor with two minutes remaining and the Hawks just toyed with Minnesota playing keep away. Another penalty resulted in a 5-on-3 and that’s all she wrote. Hawks pull out the victory, 4-2. Crawford stole the show with forty-two saves on forty-four Wild shots. Now within a point of the Wild, the Hawks are close to striking.
- Kane’s goal had an element of luck on how it set up, but the shot was skill. He returns to the thirty goal category for the second straight season. To verify this fact, I searched his career stats and was reminded he scored FORTY-SIX goals last season. Dear God.
- Kane’s set up of Panarin’s goal was no luck. Another lightning pass and Panarin buried the puck. That duo is a thing of beauty.
- A solid penalty kill handed the Blackhawks back some of the momentum they had lost earlier. That’s a great way to finish of a period.
- TVR kept jumping into the play and it finally paid off. Two goals in two games.
- Corey Crawford had another insane performance. Sure, the offense scored four goals, but this was a goalie victory. But we should’ve traded him, right?
- Andrew Desjardins had another solid day on the fourth line! Good for him.
- The final two minutes were hysterical. The Hawks just held the puck for the final 2:08. The Wild touched the puck once! And that resulted in a whistle to call a delayed penalty. Awesome. It was Chicago showing Minnesota who their daddy is.
- Mike Milbury and Keith Jones called for a physical matchup. Physical and Blackhawks in the same sentence? Suuuure.
- When the Hawks score early, they tend to develop a shell around their play. They hardly capitalize off early momentum. They scored two quick goals, but quickly gave another one back.
- It looked like Nick Schmaltz was taking a breather on the shift while Granlund scored. His head was still in the locker room and had a crucial turnover. Not coincidentally, Andrew Desjardins took the next shift with Toews and Panik. Schmaltz didn’t return to the line until past the halfway mark of the frame.
- The offense wasn't great, but got it done when it mattered. Four goals on twenty-two shots is a good and bad thing. We'll take the victory and move on.
- Seabrook turned over a clearing-attempt and then was caught standing still in front of Crawford, leading to Staal’s first period goal. It’s becoming “Rinse. Wash. Repeat.” with him.
- Not the right way to start the third period with a two goal lead. Man, sometimes you just want to scream “WAKE UP” after intermissions.
Another fun game for the Hawks. What did the two previous losses have in common? I didn’t recap them. Hmm… Anyways, yesterday was Gate’s birthday, so head over to Twitter and wish the old man a good one… he may not have too many left.