Goalie wins never get old, as long as you’re on the right side — and the Chicago Blackhawks were on the right side of on Sunday
Really needing two points in regulation Sunday to maintain hope of winning the Central Division and Western Conference, the Chicago Blackhawks got just that against the Minnesota Wild. But it certainly wasn’t easy.
The Minnesota Wild piled up 44 shots, but Corey Crawford turned aside 42 of them to lead the Blackhawks to a 4-2 win over the division leaders.
Chicago notched just 22 shots in response, but got two apiece past Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper. Patrick Kane set the tone early with a goal in the opening minute, while Artemi Panarin, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marian Hossa also scored for the host team.
Here are five thoughts from the Blackhawks’ Sunday brunch win over the Wild at the United Center.
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Crawford on point
You have to start with Crow in this game. No doubt fans were grumbling about his efforts after Friday’s 4-2 loss to Detroit, but he silenced that crowd with a stellar performance today.
Crow appeared confident and trusting of his pads, his positioning and his teammates. He received a bit of help from the posts and his defensemen, but a lot of his stops today came as a result of his play and his alone.
Minnesota has a quick team with some really skilled forwards, and their forecheck was ferocious throughout the game. It led to tons of grade-A chances against Crow, and he stopped a great many of them.
His only two goals allowed came on a goal-mouth scramble (that probably shouldn’t have happened due to a missed high stick against Minnesota) and a really nice shot by Mikael Granlund.
Minnesota getting high
I thought there was more to observe about the Wild in this game than the Blackhawks. And one of the really interesting observations was their shooting choices.
The NBC broadcast team made note of the Wild trying to go high on Crawford consistently. No doubt they’ve read the scouting report — has some glove trouble, can go down a bit too early.
But I think this strategy was hurting the Wild. They were so focused on getting the puck up that they were missing better chances in other areas. They were sending shots high and wide of the net and probably could’ve piled up 60 shots on net had they not been so focused on one area.
Sure, on a different day, maybe Crow lets five of those shots in instead of just Granlund’s. But I feel like you can get good rebound chances shooting low on Crow, and the Wild passed up so many of those.
Few mistakes, but enough mistakes
The Wild played a pretty good road game, allowing just 22 shots by the Blackhawks. But they made just enough mistakes for the Blackhawks to make them pay.
This is a key difference between Minnesota and Chicago: While the Wild have a ton of forwards who can attack in waves and score in bunches, they’re missing bonafide stars who can consistently make you pay for mistakes. Zach Parise is probably the closest to this the Wild have.
Minnesota lost Kane on the game’s first goal, and he made them pay. Panarin was essentially left open between the circles on the second goal, and he made them pay. Duncan Keith stretched the ice beautifully to Hossa in the third period, and the duo made the Wild pay.
That was the second story of the game, after Crow’s play — the Wild making just enough mistakes to lose a game. It’s something they can only do so much to mask, as you’d have to say the Wild did a fair enough job locking down the Blackhawks offense throughout.
Joel Quenneville‘s silly lessons
I’m not a fan of Coach Q’s style of in-game teaching. I’m just not. He uses it on some guys, but not others.
Trevor van Riemsdyk can rack up 17 penalty minutes in a single shift and not miss a minute of ice time. Nick Schmaltz, meanwhile, turns a puck over and gets stapled to the bench in a stretch when the Blackhawks could’ve used him on the ice.
Now, Schmaltz’s turnover that led to Granlund’s goal was admittedly a bad one. But how does it help the Blackhawks to have Schmaltz rot on the bench while handicapping the team’s top line by placing Andrew Desjardins on it? No offense to Desjardins, but he isn’t Schmaltz.
Q needs to stop with these silly in-game lessons, unless he’s going to be fair about it. Just have the guy watch game film afterward, like a normal person. Or bench everyone who makes a mistake for equal timeframes. Can’t have it both ways.
Da Windy City
Odds and ends
I still don’t think Jordin Tootoo should be anywhere near this lineup, but if he’s going to actually contribute moving forward, at least the Blackhawks are getting something out of it.
Tootoo drove toward the net in the second period and got Ryan White to trip him, then more or less distracted White by falling down. White forgot to keep paying attention to a developing play, and van Riemsdyk potted a goal as a result.
That being said, if I ever see Tootoo, Desjardins and van Riemsdyk on the ice at the same time again, I may be physically ill.
The Kane line, after the first period, was having its struggles. Zone entries got a lot more difficult, and it seemed like Kane and Panarin (to a greater extent Kane) weren’t really interested in doing much once things started getting bottled up.