Well, this was unexpected. Maybe some of you believed the Chicago Blackhawks would sweep the Minnesota Wild in the recently completed second-round playoff series. Many didn’t think that would be the case, because that typically implies lopsided scores and little drama, and the ’Hawks just don’t roll that way come playoff time.
We didn’t need to worry about a lack of drama in what proved to be a short series, though. The final 3½ minutes of Game 4 were about the strangest you’ll see in a hockey game, at any level. Marian Hossa appeared to ice the game and series with an empty netter shot while standing a few feet from Corey Crawford. And then the Wild threw the kitchen sink at the ’Hawks to the tune of two goals before the horn. Thankfully, they needed three.
Da Windy City
So how did we get here despite the hair pulling and teeth gnashing that likely plagued the majority of ’Hawks fans through the series? Here are four reasons why the ’Hawks were able to sweep the Wild:
Writer’s note: Just a little space for Michal Rozsival beforehand. The team’s fifth defenseman has taken a lot of flak for being slow and well past his prime. While there’s pretty much no chance we see him again in these Stanley Cup playoffs based solely on the way his leg/ankle looked when he fell in the third period last night (anyone who wants to see it, go on Twitter), this should not be the way anyone wanted him to drop from the lineup. The way the injury looked, we may have seen Rozsival’s last NHL shift, which is absolutely awful. He seems like a genuinely good guy, and we shouldn’t wish such an injury on anyone. Here’s to a speedy recovery for Rozsival.
Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
The ’Hawks’ offensive stars showed up and received support. There was a graphic displayed on the NBC Sports Network broadcast last night between the second and third periods. It showed statistics for some star ’Hawks and Wild players across all three of the teams’ playoff series the last three seasons. Jonathan Toews was on there with a positive rating and many points, as was Patrick Sharp. We can only assume Patrick Kane wasn’t on there because his stats would have broken the graphic-making machine. Meanwhile, Thomas Vanek had two points (though he was only part of the 2015 series), and defenseman Ryan Suter sported a double-digit negative rating, as did other Wild stars on the graphic. A small sample of players, sure, but the message stands: The ’Hawks’ big guns showed up on offense, and the Wild’s didn’t.
This conversation starts with Kane, who doesn’t feel he’s at 100 percent yet and may now be part of the Wild’s front office. He was matching the Wild in series scoring with five goals until the final few minutes of period three Thursday, and he also notched an assist. Toews, Hossa and Brandon Saad all scored once, while Toews and Hossa each added a pair of helpers. Sharp and Duncan Keith each assisted three times in the series, with Sharp also scoring once. And Brent Seabrook had a tally in Game 4.
On the other end…yeesh. Vanek’s two points of the series were both in the second period of Game 1. Two of Zach Parise’s three points came in the same time period. Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter both waited until the late-Game 4 surge to dent the twine. Jason Zucker scored once. Mikko Koivu had a lone assist. Suter had a pair. Consider, however, that if the freakout late in Game 4 hadn’t occurred that Pominville and Niederreiter would’ve been held off the series scoresheet entirely, while Parise’s and Suter’s last points would have come in Game 1. That’s a better disappearing act than Houdini could have ever pulled off.
But there’s also this: The ’Hawks received a well-rounded offensive effort with timely points from guys not frequently expected to contribute in that way. Teuvo Teravainen (he’ll be expected to contribute offensively in the future) had the game-winning goal in Game 1 and also tallied an assist. Andrew Shaw had an under-the-radar goal and two assists. Marcus Kruger scored, while Bryan Bickell and Niklas Hjalmarsson both tallied two points. Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette and Johnny Oduya each recorded a point as well. For the Wild, Matt Dumba notched a goal and two assists, while Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula both potted a goal. Oh, Matt Cooke also had a helper. So did Devan Dubnyk. That’s right: Minnesota’s goalie had more points in this series than Charlie Coyle.
The ’Hawks started the scoring with their big guns but got plenty of additional help from others throughout. The Wild got neither of those. It went a long way toward a Chicago sweep.