WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run as well as predictions on the rest of the NHL
Good starts have meant good results so far in the second round Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild.
In the first four games, the record for the team that scored the first goal was 4-0, with each team having done so twice. The Wild started the opening period of Sunday’s Game 5 with full steam.
Erik Haula netted his third goal off the playoffs with a backhand shot and rebound off Hawks goalie Corey Crawford to give the Wild an early 1-0 lead, but that would be it for the Minnesota upstarts. At the end of the night, the Hawks found themselves one game away from returning to the Western Conference Finals after a 2-1 victory Sunday night.
The Hawks tried to keep pace but the road team had the momentum after Haula’s score at 16 minutes and 33 seconds into the first period. Minnesota continued to hold the advantage in shots on goal (8-6) at the end of the period. The second 20 minutes saw a boost in the Hawks’ sense of urgency offensively as they peppered Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov with countless shots, their aggression paying off when Bryan Bickell, a.k.a. Mr. May, scored his sixth goal of this season’s playoffs (and 15th over the last two postseasons) off a tip-in on the power play, tying the game at 1-1.
Chicago held a nine-shot advantage in the second period (15-6), setting up for a entertaining third period. The Wild stepped up their efforts offensively as well with shots on goal but only the Hawks’ Jonathan Toews rung the siren, scoring his fifth goal of the playoffs to give his team a 2-1 lead and the final advantage. Give the Wild credit again for setting the tone defensively after their two successful attempts in Games 3 and 4, but the Hawks were patient and laid bodies on Wild players to match their intensity which was lacking in the games in Minnesota.
The Hawks were consistent in putting shots on net and creating rebounds from the second period on, making Bryzgalov uncomfortable in net. If the Hawks continue this pressure on the Wild’s back line and net, this series will be over on Tuesday night.
Crawford had a solid game, stopping 27 of 28 shots while posting a save percentage of .964 while Brzygalov looked shaky — especially in the second — but managed to collect 26 saves off 28 shots with a .929 save percentage.
Keep this in mind Hawks fans — Sunday’s win mainly came because this team only committed two penalties the entire game while staying disciplined and forcing the tempo during key stretches of the game. A full 60-minute effort is expect on the road in Game 6 if they’re going to eliminate the pesky Wild.
CHI — Went 1-2 on the power play.
CHI — Won faceoffs (39-29).
CHI — Patrick Sharp scored two assists.
CHI — Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane scored one assist each.
CHI — Bryan Bickell lead the team in hits (4).
MIN — Jared Spurgeon scored the team’s one assist.
MIN — Out-hit the Hawks (48-31).
MIN — Cody McCormick lead the team in hits (8).
MIN — Zach Parise, Dany Heatley and Jason Pominville combined for 0 points.
MIN — Went 0-1 on the power play
Looking At Game 6
The Hawks responded with a solid effort in front of their home fans and now are one game away from closing out this series, a series that really should have been over by now but with lack luster performances on the road they’re still in this position… but I digress.
Expect the Hawks to put forth their best effort on the road in this next game, they’ve only gone 1-4 so far in this year’s playoffs and hopefully they’ve realized by now that you don’t ever under-estimate your opponent, especially during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Wild are in a position where their season is on the line and they’ll need their home crowd more than ever and with their 5-0 record at the Xcel Energy Center, they should have a boost but they’ll need more than just crowd noise to extend this series to a seventh game.
The game plan is simple for both teams — for the Hawks, continue to put shots on net in front of Brzygalov and stay out of the penalty box; for the Wild, continue to play strong defensively and have someone — Parise, Heatley. Pominville, .etc. — step up and score goals.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
Game 6: Tomorrow, 8 PM (CNBC)
Game 7: May 15th, TBA *
*= If Necessary
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