Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
The ’Hawks never broke from their style of play. This team is all about puck possession, which was evident in the first two games of this series. But even in Games 3 and 4, when Minnesota came out on top in the team Corsi battle, the ’Hawks didn’t just roll over and pray Crow would stop everything (though they were in a prevent-style defense for much of Game 3’s third period). The ’Hawks crushed the Wild from a puck possession standpoint in Games 1 and 2 to come out on top. They kept it even with Minnesota when the series shifted to Xcel and took advantage of their opportunities on the road. The Wild just never looked comfortable playing alongside the ’Hawks.
Chicago kept pushing play when it had chances, breaking out quickly from its defensive end to start odd-man rushes or regular offensive possessions. The ’Hawks utilized the stretch pass when they thought it was appropriate and opened up the Wild’s defense. And when they didn’t have the puck, they made Minnesota’s offensive zone entries extremely difficult. They also didn’t permit the Wild to rotate offensively as they might’ve liked. It’s why, when you look at the Corsi figures from all four games, you don’t see an outing where the Wild beat down the ’Hawks from the opening whistle.
The series appeared like it would be a tight one before it started. Despite only going four games, it was a close affair. The ’Hawks just brought their A-game all the way. They had a lapse in Game 1 and locked it down from there (what happened at the end of Game 4 is more of a credit to the Wild than a knock on the ’Hawks). This team looks as good right now as it has in recent memory, and the Anaheim Ducks or Calgary Flames should be concerned when the Western Conference finals begin.
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