Blackhawks Smother Wild, Take 3-1 Series Lead

After a less-than-stellar Game Three, the Chicago Blackhawks answered the bell in Game Four with one of the most dominant defensive performances of the last three years. With Corey Crawford making all the saves necessary to secure the victory and Patrick Sharp once again providing the offense, the Hawks bring a 3-1 series lead home.

Game 4

The Wild were forced to use Darcy Kuemper, the third goaltender on their depth chart entering the postseason, for the final two periods after Josh Harding appeared to suffer a lower-body injury. Kuemper allowed Sharp’s second goal of the night on the first shot he faced in the second period.

Sharp, who struggled to put the puck in the net during the regular season when healthy, now has two multi-goal games in the first four contests of the postseason.

The story of the night wasn’t the injury to Harding, or Sharp’s return to form offensively, though. It was the Blackhawks’ suffocating defense.

Crawford was credited with the shutout, but he got a lot of help from the skaters in front of him. While Crawford made 25 saves, the Hawks blocked 26 more before they got to the netminder. Johnny Oduya led the team with five, and Michal Rozsival had four to lead the team.

The Hawks weren’t as disciplined as they undoubtedly would have liked, but their penalty kill continues to be dominant as well. Chicago killed six Minnesota powerplays in the game, including two that were almost back-to-back early in the third period.

Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger had another exceptional night on PK duty, with Frolik blocking three shots in 5:33 of short-handed ice time. Kruger won 10 of 18 overall faceoffs and skated 6:51 short-handed.

Jonathan Toews won 16 of 21 faceoffs to lead a better performance at the dot on Tuesday night. Chicago’s captain was also credited with two blocked shots and two takeaways in the game.

Daniel Carcillo dressed. He skated eight shifts, spending 3:55 on the ice and 2:00 in the penalty box.

Bryan Bickell added the nail in the coffin late in the third; for Bickell, it was his third goal of the postseason. The Blackhawks third line was significantly more physical on Tuesday night.

Duncan Keith was already plus-one on Tuesday before the game began; he played without sleeping after his first born son entered the world earlier on Tuesday. Colton Duncan Keith weighed 7 pounds 7 ounces. Colton’s father skated 23:57 with one hit, two blocked shots and was plus-two in the box score.

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28 Responses to Blackhawks Smother Wild, Take 3-1 Series Lead

  1. Dark Bird says:

    Top to bottom we looked like a championship team tonight. Albeit against an injured and depleted lineup for the Wild.

    What I’ve noticed about this years team is how good we’ve become at shutting down the opposition. The defence has played the biggest part in our regular season success and little has changed in the first few games of these playoffs.

    Once we’re entirely healthy (Bolland & Emery) I see very little standing in the way of a repeat. So long as we can weather physical play and stay tight on defence. The Hawks are a serious force to be reckoned with.

  2. Tab Bamford says:

    At what point do Hawks fans stop mentioning Emery coming back as a key to victory?

    Has nobody noticed that Crawford is dominating the postseason?

  3. DJJC says:

    Stop with the Emery. Crow is seeing everything and the defense is unreal.

  4. JS says:

    1.39 GAA .949 S% WE NEED EMERY TO IMPROVE THESE STATS!!!

    Made the adjustments needed after game 3, and no, it wasn’t just intensity and grit.

    While I like the defensive performance tonight, definitely would have liked more possession on offense. Yes, the Hawks scored two goals against the back up back up, but they really didn’t get much towards the net.

    The PP strategy of pass the puck until it starts rolling and then shoot it wide of the net is starting to annoy me. How about the old strategy of open point shot with net presence. That might be a fun one to try.

    Anyone still doubting Crawford?

  5. Sr. Brad says:

    I don’t think that was the intent of DB at all Tab…when Emery is back, it brings a strong comfort level to the goaltending position. CC is staying tall, and doing a better job of controlling his rebounds…and his defence around him has been great.

    This team did look like a championship bunch tonight, because that’s how championships are won…now back home, and then some more rest.

  6. 'hawks58 says:

    To be fair Tab, Emery could be a key to winning the Cup. I don’t want him starting any games ahead of Crawford, but I really want a solid guy like him on the bench in case Crawford happens to get injured.

  7. Tim G says:

    Im with Hawks58′s logic on this one. Crow is stepping up and he is our guy hands down. I have thought this all year. Fluky injurys happen though (like with both Backstrom and Harding)… but with a healthy Emery, I think we can still win… I dont think Henrik Karlsson can lead us to a Stanley Cup…

    Emery shouldn’t sniff the ice with Crow playing like this though… So, from that perspective, yes people need to chill out about Razor.

  8. Peter says:

    Any thoughts as to why Carcillo was used at all? At least with Bollig, Q rolled the lines a little more evenly. The strategy worked, but I hate to see our players double shifted consistently throughout the game. I’m thinking 13 was a toughness thing, but as we haven’t really retaliated all year I would have liked to have seen Smith if a change had to be made.

  9. Peter says:

    Just as I posted the previous comment I also realized 6 penalties probably prevented the 4th line from rolling together that often.

  10. IceHogst says:

    Hey Tab have you got pepper in your shorts these days? What were the other dominant defensive performances of the last three years? Or did you pull that one out of your interview with Toews, too?

    The game wasn’t much to watch but the Hawks definitely clamped down hard defensively. Great tenacity.

  11. McKay says:

    Championship defensive performance. No question.

    Far from a championship offensive performance. We really only had one quality goal that game—maybe two. Given that MN came out with no where near the intense physical play this game, I would have liked to see more tape to tape passes in the neutral zone and just over all better decision-making in the offensive zone. I felt like while we dominated play for stretches at a time (before a stupid penalty was taken) I didn’t feel like we dominated in generating quality scoring chances.

    Goes to show we can win many ways. We can put up 5. We can shut a team out. Pretty impressive.

    Go get game 5.

  12. Mike says:

    Tab, that’s right. The Hawks played suffocating defense. To the Wild’s credit they still got 25 shots on goal. They played well and they played hard. But the Hawks made them work on the perimeter all night. Last night you saw coaching brains and adaptability of the players. The Hawks came in and beat the Wild at their own game and took their game plan away. It is great to see the players “all in” on Q’s strategy. That is what champions do.

    It will be interesting to see if the Penguins can adapt to the Islanders

  13. Tom Jaremka says:

    I thought the hit that Clutterbuck put on Seabrook in the corner was awesome!! It was two HUGE bodies crashing into each other and both of them landing on the ice. However, in the defense of Seabrook, that hit did nothing for the Wild because Clutterbuck took himself out of the play. It was a HUGE hit with no result. Great for T.V. though.

    To me, I’ll take the Hossa steal of the puck, side step a hit and passing to Zuis for the first goal. Again, once the Wild winger committed to the hit, Hossa stepped around him and passed off to Zuis. Great play!!

    Anyone else watch the lowly Vancouver Canuckleheads lose in O.T.? What an undisciplined group of cry babies and whiners!! They got exactly what they deserved!! The Bieksa cross check penalty that tied the game was the killer. That guy is the most selfish, whiney player in the league. To me, they need to fire the head coach and change the message. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! They are “done like dinner”!!!

    Thank god for players like Toews, Kane, Sharp and the rest of our boys. Just play the game hard, do your best and let the refs make the calls. Don’t whine and scream at the refs and become the laughing stock of the league. I am very proud of the Hawks, they play the game the right way.

    As far as Vancouver goes, “see ya’ next year”!!!!

  14. Tim G says:

    Tom- I was kinda thinking the same thing about Vancouver… they get what they deserve… And also, at what point to they realize the window is closed and blow it up? They have all that money tied up in guys like Bieksa, Hamhuis, Booth, Higgins, etc. No one is taking Luongo’s contract off their hands either. Are they in a posistion where they try to move Schiender (because they can’t move Lu) to pick up some pieces they can rebuild around? The Sedins are only signed through the end of next year. If the team regresses again (another first round exit or potentially miss the playoff) are they resigned long term? According to CapGeek, they have 17 contracts listed for next year and they are over the lower cap with just those 17 contracts.

    They could be in trouble!

  15. Joe S. says:

    I know in the past Bolland has shown that he can take his game to another level in the playoffs, but just curious, where does he fit in the lineup when he comes back? I think Handzus has fit really well as 2C and the third line is rolling right now as well. Could Bolland possibly fit on the fourth line playing wing instead of Bollig/Carcillo? I appreciate his contributions in the past, but based on the way he was playing during the regular season and what we have right now, I think I would be hesitant to change much at this point. Am I the only one feeling this way?

  16. wall says:

    McKay- agree- Wild had some great looks- seemed to misfire on all of their best looks/open nets!

    Islanders to Pens = Oilers to Hawks… interesting

    Glad to see one of the obstacles (Canucks) gone… BUT are the Sharks peaking at the right time???
    Stanley Cup Champ has defeated Canucks last 3 years- hope that ends soon!

    Hope Hawks can clean it up in 5 and get 36 back for the Sharks (assuming Ducks win). Gives us a lot more flexibility on top 2 lines… 1st line has been neutralized… Q did a good job of tinkering 1st line to throw off the Wild a bit.

    PP still sucks

  17. Sr. Brad says:

    Carcillo was a complete waste last night…when Bolland comes back he can take that spot and give Q a ton of options in the middle, with lines, and on the PK. No more Carcillo thanks. I really think we should give Ben Smith a shot Thursday at home.

  18. Waitforawhistle says:

    When does Ben Smith get a shot on the fourth line? He has done well in the playoffs before and could play more than 3 minutes. He could also get some time with Toews and Kane when coach Q starts swapping lines.

  19. EbonyRaptor says:

    I guess I’m out-a-step-Charlie on this one.

    Certainly a shutout requires good defense from the goalie and the skaters in front of him and I think the Hawks defense was good enough last night. But suffocating? I can’t go that far. There was still a lot of scrambling around and the Wild still put 25 shots on net and missed the net a bunch of times that was a case of poor marksmanship by them rather than suffocating defense by the Hawks.

    But, I guess I’m quibbling when I shouldn’t be because the bottom line is the Hawks won and have a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

    Happy Days!

  20. Andrew Raven says:

    Hopefully the Hawks can eliminate the Wild in 5, which would give them a couple of extra days of rest. Sharpie, the third line and strong defense have made the difference. However, the PP has to improve when we play teams with more potent offense.

  21. Milton says:

    I was wrong about Carcillo. He blew the chance Q gave him last night. Bolland will be perfect on the 4th line when he gets well, but we need someone better than Bollig in that spot, especially for the 2nd round.

  22. JS says:

    The value of Handzus on the second line is diminished when he doesn’t win faceoffs. I imagine when Bolland comes back, he will be back on the second line and Sharp will be taking the draws.

    I like the fact that this Hawks team adapts well. A lot of people are saying that the Wild weren’t nearly as aggressive as they were in game 3, but a lot of it had to do with the Hawks defensemen getting back quicker and moving the puck faster.

    It also appears to me that the Hawks typically aren’t going full-throttle. On that last PP yesterday they didn’t even bother taking a shot. Are they just playing to their competition? I have to think there is another gear to this team.

    Thursday!

  23. Gou says:

    Great road victory. Coach Q and da boys adjusted well and played a solid smothering defensive game. The key was that first goal to change the mood of the building.
    I am good with whomever we play in the second round. We match up with Detroit well, but deep down I want Torres and Niemi. Media will have a field day with the story lines.
    I know SJ is playing good hockey, but this is a different hawk team compared to the last two years with Q having the tools to adjust and play the right guys as needed.
    This is also one of the better years to watch playoff hockey as there are some great series being played out.

  24. Mike says:

    To those looking for Smith, Morin etc., I don’t think it will happen unless there is an injury. Bolland will eventually take a spot. I too would like to see particularly Smith in the mix. However, I can understand Q’s thinking.
    But don’t worry…..you will see 2 or 3 Icehogs as regulars next year due to the salary cap.

  25. Tim G says:

    I agree with you Mike… As much as i like Smith, That spot is Bolland’s when he gets back.

    But until then, I wouldn’t mind seeing Smith though . Carcillo missed his chance, and As much as i like Bollig (and I do), I think Smith offers more in the terms of putting Minny away. The best way to get MIN out of the game they are trying to play is to go up by 2. Smith offers a better chance of that than Bollig.

  26. Tab Bamford says:

    I wouldn’t mind leaving the top 9 forwards as-is and letting Bolland assume a similar role to Kruger & Frolik (PK specialist w/ 5-8 min/gm even strength on 4th line). Quenneville did a better job of mixing his lines in Game 4 and I’m sure whenever Bolland returns he’ll see time between 10 & 88, as will Handzus (who wasn’t great in Minnesota).

  27. Bilbo161 says:

    It was a great game to watch. Looking forward to game 5. All we need to do is look at the Wild and it should be obvious to all we need Emery healthy. Crawford has already had a couple of injuries this year that cost him some starts. It’s critical that we get our back-up healthy. We don’t want to risk having to go with number 3 during the playoffs.

  28. Tim G says:

    THAT WILL DO! 5-1… BRING ON THE SECOND ROUND!

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