May 5, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp (10) takes a shot past Minnesota Wild defenseman Jordan Leopold (33) during the first period in game three of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
As you will certainly recall, going into Game 5 during the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, our beloved Chicago Blackhawks had the Nashville Predators on the ropes, primed for a knockout blow with a 3-1 lead in the series.
Unfortunately as you will also certainly recall, the Hawks failed to land that would-be KO punch. Yes the Hawks were playing on the Preds’ home ice and Scott Darling’s novice experience finally caught up with him, but still, it was a missed opportunity for the Blackhawks, and one that came darn near close to costing them dearly, as the Hawks all but squeezed out a series-winning victory at the Madhouse on Madison by a one-goal margin.
The Hawks and Preds were very evenly matched, and that being said, it’s amazing how easy it is at this point to forget how easily Round One could have gone in Nashville’s favor. All it would have taken were a few unlucky ricochets here and/or some inopportune blowouts there, and the Hawks’ 2014-2015 campaign could have come to a screeching halt.
Thus, the fact that the Hawks tempted fate unnecessarily by not closing up the series when they had the chance against the Predators is certainly a shortcoming on the Blackhawks’ part. You could consider this an inordinately high standard to hold them against, but these are Chicago Blackhawks, and for them it’s par for the course at this point.
Tonight, the Hawks find themselves in a near identical situation. The Hawks have, contrary to many analysts’ expectations I might add, put their second round opponent in the Minnesota Wild on the ropes, like they did the Predators, and like the Preds, the Hawks will once again have a chance to close up the series on visitor ice.
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Having not taken advantage of their chance to wrap-up the first round series when presented the opportunity, it’s crucial now in this instance of déjà vu, that the Blackhawks demonstrate that they’ve learned from their mistakes and close any window the Wild may have, no matter how small, for getting back into this series.
Yes, it’s not the biggest deal if the Hawks lose tonight, considering the substantial edge they have statistically speaking. The Wild are down three games, which is a deeper hole than the Preds were in, and they have to win twice at the United Center in order to get past the Hawks, which on paper looks near impossible. Yet, the Hawks have seen this happen before, from both the giving and receiving ends. The Hawks have made the Wild a team with nothing to lose, and that makes them dangerous and unpredictable.
This is all the more reason for the Hawks to deny the Wild any chance of getting back into this series. The good news however, is that the Hawks discovered how to take away any momentum the Wild may have going from them one their home ice during Game 3.
Last Tuesday night the Blackhawks may have put together great offensive drives, played solid defense, and Corey Crawford played like puck Velcro, but it was the less glamorous stats that carried the day. Dominance at the dot, blocked shots, and sticks ever-present in the passing lanes all added up to the Hawks preventing the Wild from ever finding their groove. The question now is can the Hawks duplicate this winning formula tonight.
Never mind that victory this evening would give the Hawks some extra rest before moving on to the Western Conference Finals. Real champions know how to win when presented the opportunity. The Hawks may have failed to prove this the first time around, but tonight they’ll again have the chance to show us they’re the champions we know they are.
FOR THE DAGGER!
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