As the Blackhawks try to live up to the large expectations from their regular season stay on top of their developments with We Are Regal Radio’s Sidney Brown here on WARR online and on Regal broadcasting. Also follow on twitter @regalradio1.
By Sidney Brown, WARR contributor
New experience definitely served the Blackhawks youth as the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed left little doubt to who was the better team in its first round series series and suddenly 2010 seems closer than it has in a long while.
With a 5-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild Thursday night, the Hawks clinched a 4-1 series win, the first series win for the franchise since winning the 2010 Stanley Cup, and in doing so showed why they’re a good bet to do it again in a month’s time.
In spite of their dual Hart Trophy candidates Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each finishing a surprisingly goal-less series, the Hawks displayed another offensive explosion in ending Minnesota’s season. With a 33-22 advantage in shots on goal, the Hawks were powered by scores from Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw, Patrick Sharp and two goals from Marian Hossa.
The Hawks under-fire power play finally perked up, making good on 1 of 2 chances with Sharp’s third period tally being the one. The Wild fought to keep this from being an elimination game, starting out fast on the offensive end, but they couldn’t turn back the inevitable and goaltender Josh Harding couldn’t turn back the puck like they wanted, he would be replaced by Darcy Kuemper in the second period after allowing three goals in 15 shots. Kuemper only fared slightly better, allowing two goals the rest of the way.
First, to Hawks winger Hossa, who scored two goals in Game 5 for his ninth career two-goal game in the playoffs and to his finally being healthy in a playoff situation again. Just compare the end of this series to one year ago when his season was cut short in game three against Phoenix on a vicious hit from then-Coyotes enforcer Raffi Torres.
Second, the Hawks special teams — i.e. the penalty killers — who shut out the Wild and didn’t allow a single goal on the Wild’s man advantage (0-17) in the series.
Third, the Hawks third- and fourth-liners, contributing on offense all during this series: Michael Frolik, Bryan Bickell, Kruger and Shaw. Fans should keep those names in mind as the Hawks move along in this playoff run, each one has the makings of an unsung hero who can make a difference in a playoff series.
Added props to Hawks winger Sharp, who scored five goals in this series after scoring six entirely in his injury-plagued regular season.
And last, but not least, Hawks starting goalie Corey Crawford who allowed only seven goals through this series with a .952% save percentage. He’s my series MVP, PERIOD!
With that said, my Game Puck for Game 5 goes to?….. none other than Crawford. Even though he was denied a shutout, Crawford’s performance was solid and enough to help clinch the series for the Hawks.
Moving on to the Western Conference semifinals, the Hawks have a few days off at their disposal, a rare treat in this condensed season.
As they rest, lets deliberate Hawks fans — who do you want to see in the next round? The San Jose Sharks featuring ex-Hawks in goalie Antti Niemi and Adam Burish or the hated Detroit Red Wings? Remember, the Red Wings are bound to join the Eastern Conference next year, so after this year the only time these Original 6 rivals could ever see each other in the playoffs again would have to be in the Cup series.
Either way, the second round should be very interesting and a whole lot of fun.
Sidney Brown is a veteran in sports radio, having worked for Sporting News Radio for several years. Sidney has followed hockey since 1993, the year after the Blackhawks lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. A huge Hawks fan, Sidney went to his first game in April of 1999. He proudly owns 14 Hawks jerseys.