May 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) celebrates with left wing Bryan Bickell (29) after defeating the Minnesota Wild in game two of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks are certainly back in full force, with six straight playoff wins, and now hold a 2-0 advantage over the Minnesota Wild in their Western Conference Semi-Final series. A four or five-game series could be a huge advantage for the ‘Hawks, giving them ample time to rest before a possible Western Conference Final match-up. Before Chicago has an opportunity to take a 3-0 series lead on Tuesday, we count down the top three ways the Blackhawks can close this series out fast.
#3: Corey Crawford Stays Hot
Although some Blackhawks fans would give Jonathan Toews the honor, many believe Corey Crawford has been the best ‘Hawk in the playoffs so far. Crawford’s .936% save percentage and 1.89 GAA have him ranked in second in both categories, and he has the most wins out of any goaltender, with six. Crawford has erased all doubts that he isn’t an elite goaltender, but some still think his dynamite play may just be a ‘flash in the pan’. Crawford has the ability to keep up his exceptional play, and make the big saves when the ‘Hawks need him to. With some of the best defencemen in the game in front of him, Crawford staying consistent could be the easiest, and most effective, way of keeping this series from going the distance.
#2: Learn From The Blues/Sharks
It is a refreshing change to be the team up in the series 2-0 for Blackhawks fans, after trailing by such a deficit after the first two games of their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. The Wild are in the same position that the Blackhawks were two weeks ago, heading home to their own crowd, looking for an offensive explosion in Game Three. The Blackhawks had their most dominating performance of the series in Game Three against the Blues, shutting St. Louis out en route to a 2-0 win. If the Blackhawks end up with a Win in Game Three, they must take heed from the San Jose Sharks, who also shared the comfy 3-0 series lead in the first round. The Sharks couldn’t finish off the Los Angeles Kings in the next four games, and ended up losing the series, only the fourth team to do so. The Blackhawks can’t take any short-cuts on their way to the top, and at least two top-notch efforts will be needed to knock off the Wild yet.
#1: Spread The Love
The Blackhawks have had two extremely dominating wins in their past three games: Game Six against St. Louis, a 5-1 victory, and Game Two on Sunday, which was a 4-1 win. In both cases, players were snapping out of dry spells: it was Patrick Sharp in Game Six, and Brandon Saad in Game Two. The Blackhawks are at their best when everybody is producing, such as “Mr. Playoffs” himself, Bryan Bickell, or Nick Leddy getting on the scoresheet, despite lower-than-usual ice time. In fact, the only player not named Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane to score a game-winner for the Blackhawks so far in the playoffs is Marian Hossa. The Blackhawks have some of the best bottom-six forwards in the game, and when they are contributing, the ‘Hawks are nearly unstoppable. If Joel Quenneville can get the likes of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger, and Kris Versteeg scoring, the Wild’s depth will be no match for Chicago.