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
Defense was the name of the game that helped the Chicago Blackhawks sweep away the pesky Minnesota Wild for the third straight season.
In the last two games of their four-game series, the Hawks gave up a total of three goals — two came in garbage time during the last minutes of the Wild season when they were already down 4-1 in the third period of Thursday’s Game 4. A shutout in Game 3 powered the Hawks through the final half of their quick series.
Special teams also stepped up to the plate throughout the series, with Chicago’s power play scoring twice out of three chances in Games 3 and 4 while the penalty kill unit held the Wild to just one goal (1-6).
With their hot scoring, the Hawks displayed their dominance and showed why they were the better team and have a roster filled with players that can do multiple things.
Most telling to the Hawks’ easy time in this latest go around with Minnesota is an unknown stat to most fans. Sure the Hawks scored the most goals but they also completely controlled the pace of each game. Let’s take a look at the numbers that most displayed total domination.
Minutes Leading vs. Wild
Total Time Leading: 2 hours, 12 minutes, 17 seconds
Total Time Tied: 1:07:43
Total Time Trailing: 00:00
Your stars are suppose to step up when the pressure’s on and for the Hawks, who have been battled tested in the last several years, have done that and it showed once again in the series against the Wild. Experience overrides youth and the numbers show it.
While the Wild were overwhelmed with high expectations and the pressure, the Hawks stars rose up to the challenge when it mattered most. Let’s take a look of the performance of the stars from both teams in the last three playoff series.
Tale of the Tape
Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews = 56 points combined
Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Ryan Suter = 19 points combined
Let’s not forget the role players for the Hawks that made in difference in Games 3 and 4 to put the Wild away. Bryan Bickell, who didn’t score a goal in this series unlike a year ago, contributed in other ways including tallying two assists in the Game 4 series clincher and a combined 6 total hits.
Bryan’s physical presence along with his scoring ability will be key in the next round. Andrew Shaw scored his first goal of this year’s playoffs on the power play in Game 4 while neutralizing the Wild’s top scoring lines. Shaw must play under control by not drawing unnecessary penalties while trying to hold the opposition at bay.
Before this series began, Corey Crawford struggled with his confidence in net against the Nashville Predators while Devan Dubnyk had the series of his life against the St. Louis Blues and most experts gave Dubnyk the edge. How the tables have turned.
With the commitment to defense, Crawford benefited tremendously, posting a 1.75 goals against average along with a save percentage of .947 to help out Crawford. The Hawks blocked a total of 33 shots in Games 3 and 4 to eliminate Minnesota.
As I predicted, Dubnyk would look human against the Hawks and it showed in two out of the last three games of the series. Here’s the breakdown of the numbers between the starting goaltenders.
Crawford vs. Wild (Playoffs)
2015 = 4-0 record, 1.75 goals against average, .946 save percentage
2014 = 4-2 record, 1.97 goals against average, .925 save percentage
2013 = 4-1 record, 1.32 goals against average, .950 save percentage
Total = 12-3 record, 1.60 goals against average, .942 save percentage
Devan Dubnyk vs. Blackhawks
Regular Season — 2-0 record, 0.50 goals against average, .982 save percentage, 1 shutout
Playoffs — 0-4 record, 3.00 goals against average, .900 save percentage
What Should Be Taken Away From the Wild Series?
1) The Hawks can play a patient and tight defensive game until their offense develops
2) Corey Crawford has regained his confidence in net
3) The Wild struggling to score consistently unlike their opening round series against St. Louis
4) Hawks star played stepped up while the Wild’s stars disappeared
5) Hawks special teams mat start to get back on track
It’s on to the Western Conference Finals for the fifth time in the last seven years and while the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, this run should not be taken for granted given the fact from where this franchise has come from over the last decade. Will the Hawks face the veteran Anaheim Ducks or the youthful and upstart Calgary Flames?
The Hawks will have a week to rest up and if you as a fan need some confidence heading to the Western Conference Finals, the Hawks defeated both opponents two out of three times during the regular season.
Goals: CHI (13), MIN (7)
Shots: CHI (113), MIN (131)
Power Play: CHI (2-6), MIN (3-11)
Face-off Wins: CHI (136), MIN (111)
Series Leaders (Final)
Goals: Patrick Kane (CHI) 5
Points: Patrick Kane (CHI) 6
Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (CHI) 1.75
Team Leaders (Postseason)
Goals: Patrick Kane (7)
Assists: Duncan Keith (8)
Points: Patrick Kane (13)
Penalty Minutes: Andrew Shaw (34)
Goals Against Average: Scott Darling (2.22)
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio and Sidney Brown on Twitter @sidkid80