You know who’s fun to watch play hockey? Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. You know who might disagree with that statement? The Minnesota Wild.
Never was that more true than during these recently completed Stanley Cup playoffs, during which the Blackhawks earned a four-game sweep of the Wild in the Western Conference semifinals. Kane tallied five goals in the series, while no other forward on either side managed more than one. It’s hard to say in which of the four games Kane’s impact was most appreciated or important, but Game 3 may be the answer.
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Today, we’re taking a look at that game in our continuing countdown of the top Blackhawks playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 58: 2015 Western Conference semifinals, Game 3
Chicago Blackhawks 1, Minnesota Wild 0
Yeah, it’s another game against Minnesota. This is our fifth Wild game in the countdown, and we’re only 16 games in. Maybe they should work on being more exciting this offseason.
There obviously aren’t many goals to talk about in this one, and while this game might be remembered for the only puck to find the back of the net, there was another moment worth talking about.
One thing before we look at the game itself. Opposing fan bases irritate Blackhawks fans for different reasons, and at different levels. Minnesota’s fan base is irritating because its members don’t realize Wild is a one-syllable word. This is also why the San Jose Sharks fan base can be irritating. Why does the chant have to be “Let’s go Wi-uhld” or “Let’s go Sha-arks”? Just chant in quick little bursts, like Blackhawks fans do with “Let’s go ’Hawks.” It is a minor detail, but just throwing it out there.
Matt Cooke, embarrassingly, had the first good scoring chance of the game just a minute in, taking a pass from Charlie Coyle and shoving a backhander on Corey Crawford that the goaltender stopped. Crawford would face eight more shots than Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk in this one (30-22), and it wouldn’t be the last time Crow had to make a nice save.
Da Windy City
Chicago’s first good chance came about 6:30 into the contest when Brandon Saad made a nice bank pass off the board and around Marco Scandella to Marian Hossa. With Jonathan Toews streaking to the net, Hossa threw the puck at Dubnyk, but the Toews was unable to get wood on it. Just seconds later, Hossa had a huge rebound chance off a Johnny Oduya shot, but Dubnyk and Jonas Brodin worked together to keep the puck out of the net.
Wild fans, at this point, were probably thrilled Kane had been kept quiet, even if it was just for the first 14 minutes. It wouldn’t last, as Patrick Sharp carried the puck from the defensive zone and attempted a pass to Andrew Shaw heading up the ice. A Wild stick nicked the puck, but it still found Shaw, who sent a rolling puck over to Kane flying up Dubnyk’s right side. Kane found a way to settle the puck and just snipe it past Dubnyk for a Blackhawks lead, and what would turn out to be the game’s only goal.
What became Chicago’s third line in the 2015 playoffs also showed in this one why it was so effective. With less than two minutes to go in the first, Sharp, Antoine Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen put on a furious forecheck in their offensive zone. It led to some miscommunication between Brodin and Ryan Suter, allowing Teuvo to steal the puck and put it on net. Obviously it didn’t go in, but it was another chance for the Blackhawks.
Minnesota started seeing an increase in its scoring bids about eight minutes into the second period. It all started with Mikko Koivu carrying the puck behind Crawford, looking for a passing partner. Nino Niederreiter was open a brutally long time on Crow’s doorstep, and Koivu did eventually find him. But a good save and a nice little pick by Michal Rozsival on Niederreiter killed that chance. Jason Pominville had another nice chance two minutes later when the puck bounced to him while relatively undefended on Crawford’s right, but Crow was up to the challenge again.
Pominville’s opportunity was sent the other way immediately by Teuvo, who made a really nice pass attempt to Vermette. The puck slipped off Vermette’s stick, though, and went to Duncan Keith. The future MVP’s shot rebounded heavily off Dubnyk’s pads, giving Teuvo and Vermette each an extra shot at the net. Dubnyk’s rebound control was pretty poor in this game, but the Blackhawks managed just 22 shots in the affair, saving the goaltender from his bouncy pads.
That chance was followed by one from Minnesota, and a very good one at that. Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund played a little tic-tac-toe until Granlund was all alone heading toward Crawford. Crow padded the puck away, not allowing a goal or a second chance in the process.
But let’s get to this game’s top memory. It came about 8:30 into the third period, with the Wild again attacking. Suter carried the puck into Minnesota’s offensive zone and behind Crawford. Eventually, the puck was sent toward the net and a gaggle of green and white jerseys. Now, look at the below image:
Screenshot from YouTube
You might notice an issue with this image, namely the puck trickling toward Chicago’s net through the skates of Niklas Hjalmarsson (the guy staring down at the puck). And it appears Crow is wiped out by Tropical Storm Minnesota, as you can’t even see him in that picture.
So the next image should be of Minnesota’s five players sharing a group hug near the net, maybe Crawford appealing to the nearby referee that he was interfered with on the play. Instead, we got this:
Screenshot from YouTube
Look below Hjalmarsson’s legs now. That’s the blocker of Crawford, who somehow tracked the puck and kept it from crossing the crease. Whether someone yelled at him to fall to his side (all five Blackhawks are within a few inches of the crease) or he just got a peek of it through the mass of bodies, this is an incredible save. Reasons we don’t necessarily remember it in the grand scheme of the 2015 Stanley Cup win might be because this happened early in the playoffs, and because this was the Kane series. But Crow deserves his due on this one (and in general).
The last awesome chance for Minnesota came with about five minutes to go, when a shot from along the boards hit Marcus Kruger‘s stick and went right on Crawford. Though surprised, Crow made the stop, and he’d go on to earn the shutout.
The Game 3 victory put the Blackhawks up 3-0 in this series en route to the previously mentioned sweep. A couple other notes from this one:
— In the highlight package, Kenny Albert at one point says “Good play by Rozsival.” A number of Chicagoans reportedly went to visit auditory doctors the next day.
— Eddie Olczyk starts talking about the Kentucky Derby with five minutes left in the game.
— There were only four penalties in this game. Three were on the Blackhawks, one in each period.
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