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Halfway Holy Cows For The Chicago Blackhawks

By Gail Kauchak
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May 7, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) during the first period against the Minnesota Wild in game four of the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 4-3 sweeping the second round of playoffs. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Well here we are!  The Chicago Blackhawks are halfway to the Stanley Cup!  They have won 8 games and the first 2 series in the 2015 playoffs.  If all goes according to plan, the Hawks will win 8 more games and 2 more series in order to have the honor of hoisting the Stanley Cup for the third time in 6 years.

As of early this morning, it’s official.  The Hawks next opponent will be the Anaheim Ducks, who defeated the Calgary Flames in 5 games and now advance to the Western Conference Finals and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Upon reviewing highlights and articles over the weekend, it occurred to me that there have been a number of surprises for our Blackhawks so far in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Things that weren’t really expected that have come to fruition these last few weeks.   It just goes to show you never really know what’s going to happen with this thing we call hockey.  So before we get into analyzing this next match up, let’s take a look at some of these surprises, and see how they can work to the Hawks advantage going forward.

Who would have thought the Hawks would eliminate the Minnesota Wild in a 4 game sweep?!  Seriously, if anyone guessed this would be the outcome, speak now or forever hold your peace.  Most experts and fans were calling for this to be a 6 or 7 game, very hard fought series.

Yet the Hawks prevailed.  For 4 games in a row.  They got to the hot goalie in Devan Dubnyk early and often.  They changed up the lines a bit, and all of the sudden 4 very threatening lines were rolling.  They tightened up on defense.  And Corey Crawford silenced the doubters and came back from a shaky first round solid and strong.

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Everyone expected Bryan Bickell to score a bunch of goals against the Minnesota Wild.  He has had a great track record against this team.  Well, low and behold, Bicks scored 0 goals and had only 1 assist in this series.  But what #29 did have was 29 hits.  Playing on the second line with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane, his physical play is opening up time and space for his line mates to make big plays.  This will be needed against a very physical Anaheim team.  Rest up now Bicks, and start getting angry.

Teuvo Teravainen (a.k.a Baby TT) didn’t play for the last 4 games of the series against Nashville.  Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins got the calls instead, and TT was an odd man out.  But he got his chance again in the series versus the Wild.  The 20 year old has been playing on the third line with veterans Antoine Vermette and Patrick Sharp, and he has proven he should stay.

He scored the game winning goal in Game 1.   He had an assist on Patrick Sharp’s goal in Game 2.  And he had the team high 4 shots on goal in Game 3.  Not to mention that he tallied a well-timed assist in Game 1 of the Preds series.  Teravainen is showing that he can be a playmaker.   I expect him to step up his game in this next series as well.

We all thought it was a pipe dream that Kris Versteeg would get benched.  But wouldn’t you know, as soon as the Minnesota series started, Steeger was on the outside looking in.  Antoine Vermette and Andrew Desjardins appeared to be good fits on the third and fourth lines, respectively, and we already discussed that Coach Q wanted to get Teravainen back into the lineup.  So the light bulb finally went off that Versteeg had the least to offer.

Apparently a few days after Steeger was benched it was announced that he had an injury, and he didn’t participate in the next few practices.   That seems a little too coincidental.  I think he wasn’t dealing with his demotion too well.

But Versteeg has been practicing with the team recently, so hopefully he’s learned a lesson from Corey Crawford and he’s preparing for his next shot.   I still think he could have a place in this run.  Whether it be in this series or (hopefully) the next, I think Kris Versteeg will make a difference in some way.  I’m not sure how, but I see it happening.

I put this at the end because it’s really no surprise that Patrick Kane shows up for the spot light, but who would have thought he’d be playing this well so soon?  He came back 7 weeks after an injury that was supposed to keep him out 12 weeks, and he has not disappointed.

Instead of easing back into things, Kaner started up right where he left off, and then some.  He had 5 goals in 10 shots in the last 4 games against Minnesota.  He has 7 goals and 13 points in the 10 games of the playoffs so far.  He’s had at least a point in every playoff game this year except for Game 3 against the Predators.  How does he do that?!  Keep it up Kaner!

Here are a few other interesting tidbits:

There were no overtime games in the Minnesota series.  The Hawks have not had a playoff series without an overtime game since the second round in 2010.

There was only 1 defenseman’s goal in the Minnesota series (Brent Seabrook scored the first goal in Game 4).  Compare that to 5 defensemen scores in the Nashville series.  What will the next series bring?

What’s next?  The Anaheim Ducks.  The Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, and now beat the Calgary Flames in 5 games.  They’ve only had 1 loss in the last 9 games.  That’s pretty impressive.  But wait, the Chicago Blackhawks have only had 2 losses in the past 10 games.  That’s not too shabby either.  Hmm, it’s about to get interesting!  What kind of surprises are in store for us in this next round?

8 down and 8 to go.

FOR THE CUP!!!

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