It wasn’t all that long ago that the Chicago Blackhawks had a comfortable 2-0 lead, in the series over the Minnesota Wild.
Minnesota forcefully took Games 3 and 4, in Minnesota, to tie the series and steal the momentum, as the series heads back to Chicago, for Game 5.
This isn’t the Wild of yesteryear.
Goals For Per Game
Goals Against Per Game
Power Play Percentage
Penalty Kill Percentage
Corsi For Percentage
See? The Wild, a formerly known defensive team that struggles with possession, but flourishes in preventing their opponents from scoring. They remain a very good defensive team, but have also become a team that can control the puck now, as well. While Minnesota is not to be taken lightly, as the Hawks seemingly have, the Hawks are still the defending champs. While Minnesota has played better, in the possession stats in which the Hawks are known for dominating, is a bit startling, the Hawks have an advantage everywhere else. Each team has had dominating victories, in this series. Now, the Wild have the momentum, but not the advantage. Not yet, anyways. You gotta love home-ice advantage.
The Wild have been able to frustrate the Blackhawks into 2 straight losses, with their trap game. At the same time, that have controlled the puck, and their offense has received a huge boost. With guys like Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikael Granlund possessing the puck regularly, it’s only a matter of time before they score. Matt Cooke’s return from suspension clearly worked wonders, for the Wild. His physical play frustrated the Hawks, which resulted in them taking more careless penalties, in Game 4. Defenseman Keith Ballard will be out, for Game 5, and will be replaced, in the lineup, by Nate Prosser.
In net, for the Wild, will once again be Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov played very well, in Games 3 and 4. It’s hard to say whether that’s more because of the Wild’s strong defensive play, or his own doing. It doesn’t matter, though, as he has done a solid job, the past 2 games.
It would be foolish to say that the Hawks are in dire straits. At the same time, though, things aren’t quite as rosey as they looked, after Game 2. Once again, Coach Q turned on his lineup blender, for tonight’s game, but this smoothie isn’t quite as exotic. Kris Versteeg has joined the top line, with Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell. Questionably, Michal Handzus has returned to the 2nd line, with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp as his wings. Interestingly, Patrick Kane is a winger, on the 3rd line, with Brandon Saad as Marcus Kruger centers them. The 4th line gets a makeover, as Peter Regin escapes, from the press box to center Ben Smith and Joakim Nordstrom. It will be interesting to see how long Coach Q sticks with these line combinations. Yes, Jeremy Morin has been scratched, for tonight’s game. Unfortunately, Andrew Shaw will miss his 4th straight game. Shaw’s absence has certainly been felt, in the recent games.
In net, for the Hawks, will be Corey Crawford. Crawford had a game he’d like to forget, in Game 4, but he has been fantastic, in the playoffs, otherwise.
Many Hawks fans are saying the world is falling apart, but it’s not. This is now a best of 5 series, between the Hawks and Wild, with the Hawks owning home-ice advantage. The Wild have vastly improved, no question, but they still aren’t the Hawks.
No one will be shaving their playoff beards, just yet.