After leaving the last two postseasons after the first round, the Blackhawks and Corey Crawford put that past, and the Minnesota Wild, behind them. Behind a dominant early performance from Crawford and an offensive explosion in the second period, the Hawks will continue into the second round.
Crawford was the star of the series, dominating games when needed. He allowed only seven goals in five games and posted a .950 save percentage in the series. While other star goaltenders are struggling, being eliminated and/or replaced, Crawford has been one of the best of the postseason; only Craig Anderson has done as much to help propel his team, the Senators, into the second round as Crawford.
The Wild outplayed the Blackhawks for much of the first period, but a number of key saves by Crawford kept the scored knotted at zero. With under five minutes left in the first, the Hawks got on the board and never looked back.
What made the Game Five victory an impressive punctuation to the first round series against the Wild was not the 5-1 score, but that those five goals came from a skater on all four of the Blackhawks’ lines.
In the game on Thursday night, the Hawks top line stepped up their production. Marian Hossa scored twice in the game to give him three goals in the series, and Brandon Saad joined Jonathan Toews in posting his first point of the postseason with an assist on Hossa’s second tally. Toews came into the contest without a point in the first four games of the series, but was credited with two assists while having another outstanding night at the dot (won 10 of 17 faceoffs).
But the top line wasn’t alone.
Patrick Sharp scored his fifth goal of the series, the Hawks’ first powerplay goal since the first game of postseason. Sharp is now tied with David Krejci of the Bruins for the postseason lead with his five goals.
From the team’s bottom-six forwards, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger added their first goals of the playoffs as well. Shaw also won seven of 10 faceoffs and led the team with four hits in Game Five.
In the series, only two Blackhawks forwards failed to register at least one point (Brandon Bollig and Daniel Carcillo).
Behind Crawford, the story of the series for the Hawks was the penalty kill unit. Chicago was perfect while short-handed in the series, led by Kruger and Michael Frolik. On Thursday night, Frolik and Niklas Hjalmarsson led the Hawks with two blocked shots each, while Kruger and Frolik skated 2:41 of the 4:00 the Blackhawks were short-handed.
The Blackhawks will now wait for to see if the Detroit Red Wings can win Games Six and Seven against the Anaheim Ducks to determine their next opponent. If Anaheim wins that series, Chicago will welcome San Jose next week.