May 5, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalieCorey Crawford
(50) makes a save during the second period against the Minnesota Wild in game three of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Who would have thought the Chicago Blackhawks would be leading Round 2 against the Minnesota Wild up 3 games to none! But here we are. The Hawks went into this game having only won 1 of 9 playoff Games 3’s on the road. The odds were against them, but none of the players were paying attention to that. They now have a chance to sweep the series if they can pull out a win on tonight at the Excel Energy Center. Having only scored 1 goal, Game 3 was a defensive and goalie win for sure. Here are 5 things that stood out to me from this game.
5. Defense was key. The Hawks killed off 3 penalties and played most of the third period in the defensive zone shutting down their opponent. The Wild pushed hard, but every Blackhawk player came up big and was positionally sound throughout the night.
The shutdown fourth line looked great all night. Even Michal Rozsival looked good! I expected him to get exploited this game with Minnesota being able to better dictate the matchups. But Rozy held strong.
Once the Hawks got the lead, they played a “smart, simple and safe” defensive game, as Coach Q so adeptly put it. Eddie O. added that they played very patient as well. They didn’t take any chances, and therefore kept the Wild from being able to generate anything.
4. Crawford is back to form. This game was the big test. Could Corey Crawford go into enemy territory and have a strong game? Well he did just that, folks. He stopped all 30 shots thrown at him for a shutout win. 30 seems to be his lucky number by the way. He stopped 30 of 33 in Game 1, and 30 of 31 in Game 2.
Crawford made some great saves, and gave up very few rebounds on Tuesday night. He looked strong and solid and appears to have his mojo back. He is now the first netminder in Blackhawks history to record a shutout in 3 straight postseasons.
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3. Let’s hand it to the foot soldiers. After the game, Steve Konroyd referred to the foot soldiers that contributed to this big win. He brought up names like Marcus Kruger, Andrew Desjardins, and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
These are the guys that work hard behind the scenes and rarely get recognized for their contributions. Their names are not Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, but they are a part of a winning team. What they do night in and night out allows the stars to shine.
Scott Powers of ESPN recently wrote a great article about Marcus Kruger. I highly recommend that you read it. It paints a great picture of what it’s like to be a “non-star” on a team full of stars.
2. Mr. Showtime does it again. Patrick Kane isn’t even supposed to be back yet! But he is, and he has scored 6 goals and has 11 points in 9 playoff games so far. Kane has scored 4 goals in this series, compared to the entire Minnesota team only scoring 4 goals in this series. He currently leads the Hawks in postseason scoring. He has 102 points in 102 playoff games.
The funny thing is that the goal Kaner scored was kind of a fluke. Patrick Sharp shanked on a pass, and this appeared to throw off the Minnesota defenders. But it ended up trickling to Andrew Shaw anyway. All Shawzy had to do was get the puck to Kaner and he did the rest. Way to take advantage of a little puck luck!
1. Coach Q knows what to do. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. Coach Q and staff have a knack for this playoff thing. It’s like they purposely force the players outside of their comfort zone during the regular season. This is how they get stronger and better. How many times have we questioned decisions? Why is Brandon Saad not on the first line? Why is Kris Versteeg still playing? Why isn’t Teuvo Teravainen playing? Why is Antoine Vermette not playing center? Why is Andrew Shaw playing center and not the wing?
But here we are in the playoffs and all of those questions have been answered. It’s like Coach Q decided it’s time to let off the reins. He has finally put everyone in an ideal situation to succeed, and said, ok, take it away boys!
Can the Chicago Blackhawks win tonight and sweep the series? Chances are no, but we never thought they would be up 3 games to none either. Anything can happen! Either way, the Hawks now have 4 chances to win just one more game and close out this series. The odds are definitely in their favor to do that. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out!
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