Blackhawks Tame Wild Again, Take 2-0 Lead

With a more complete, dominant performance than Game One, the Chicago Blackhawks handled their business at home and will take a 2-0 series lead to Minnesota.

In this victory, the Hawks continued to answer many of the questions doubters had coming into the postseason.

Many fans have continued to question Corey Crawford throughout the regular season and into the playoffs, but he has performed well in big situations through two games. On Friday night, he stymied a second period flurry and earned a second victory in the series. With 26 more saves against 28 shots, Crawford boasts a .945 save percentage in the series.

And Crawford has needed to be good; Josh Harding has been exceptional in spite of the two losses. Harding faced 47 shots on Friday night, allowing four goals. Through two games, Harding has allowed six goals against 84 shots (a .929 save percentage).

Another concern for the Hawks was their response to the increase in physical play in the postseason. When we previewed the series, we noted that the Hawks and Wild were both near (or, in the Hawks’ case, at) the bottom of the league in hits during the regular season. But this series has broken away from that trend.

Through two games, Chicago has piled up 75 hits already. To put that into perspective, the Hawks averaged only 17.5 hits per game during the regular season.

The series between the Blues and Kings appeared to be the most physical in the Western Conference entering the postseason, and has been so far. St. Louis and Los Angeles have combined for an NHL playoff-high 155 hits in their first two games; the Hawks and Wild have combined for 154.

While the Blackhawks powerplay continues to be a gong show, their penalty kill has been outstanding. Michael Frolik’s second goal of the night was the first short-handed tally allowed by the Wild this year; the Hawks have now scored as many goals while the Wild have had an advantage in the series as they have scored while on the powerplay.

Frolik was the story of the night early, opening the scoring in the first period and then adding his short-handed goal in the second. He has been credited two blocked shots, three hits and three takeaways in the first two games of the series, and continues to be a key member of the Hawks’ penalty kill unit that remains perfect against six Wild powerplays.

Patrick Sharp had struggled to put the puck in the net all season, but especially since coming back from his shoulder injury late in the regular season. Thanks to hard work in front of the net on his first goal and a gorgeous pass from Patrick Kane on his second, Sharp knocked off the dust in a big way on Friday night.

For Kane, the two assists give him three in the series. He also has four takeaways thus far.

But the Hawks haven’t received dominant performances, at least on the scoreboard, from their superstars… yet. Of the seven goals they have scored in the first two games, four have come from Bryan Bickell and Frolik (two each) while Sharp (two) and Marian Hossa (one) have the only three from the team’s top six.

However, the scoreboard has been the only place the Hawks’ big names haven’t been stars. Jonathan Toews has won 64.4 percent of his faceoffs in two games, while Hossa and Saad have combined for eight hits.

On Friday night, Saad put seven shots on net. Only Sharp, with eight, had more for the Hawks; Sharp now has 13 shots on net through two games.

The Blackhawks speed, especially from the third line, has been too much for the Wild so far. Bickell had a team-high six hits (tied with Brandon Bollig) on Friday night, giving him eight in two games. Viktor Stalberg has an assist and four hits, and Andrew Shaw has a team-leading nine hits while winning 12 of 25 faceoffs through two contests.

Bollig also has nine hits in two games, and has only served one penalty in 25 shifts.

For Minnesota, big money Zach Parise led the team with six hits and seven shots on goal on Friday night… but was minus-three. Meanwhile, the Hawks have completely frustrated Mikko Koivu. The Wild captain has won only 43.6 percent of his faceoffs and has been called for four penalties in the first two games of the series.

On a night when the Pittsburgh Penguins gave up a 3-1 lead at home in Sidney Crosby’s return and lost to the Islanders, the Hawks took a dominant step forward. In the Western Conference, the Blackhawks, Blues and Sharks now hold 2-0 advantages heading to their respective Game Threes.

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13 Responses to Blackhawks Tame Wild Again, Take 2-0 Lead

  1. RyanDale says:

    This was kinda my blueprint for game 1. Much better pace, much better result. The PP was again in mid season form though, meaning worthless. And I doubt using 16 on the second unit is the answer. Marcus can not even finish a sentence. To be fair, I love other parts of his game however. But there was alot to like in the game (14 takeaways, balanced scoring, faceoffs) and we’ve got a chance to get a couple days rest, though other west matchups are 2-0 as well. Sorry Vanc, ha!

  2. Andrew Raven says:

    Hawks outplayed and outworked the Wild. What a dominant game by the Hawks! Could easily have been 7-2 after 60, but all that matters is the win. I really like what Rosy brings to the table for Chicago: he’s our best d-man right now. Excellent position game on both ends of the ice, he knows when to deliver a huge hit and when backing off, when joining the rush/cycling, very smart player. Duncs and Seabs (who seems to struggle with keeping his balance) are not at their best, but I’m positive they’ll find back to their normal strength real soon.
    Bottoms six of the Hawks set the tone, but I’m happy for 2nd line that they got better as the game progressed. Good for Sharpie (and Frolik) to get on the scoreboard. What a magnificient dish by 88 in red to a wide-open Sharp, highlight-real!
    Let’s go you Hawks!

  3. Phil says:

    The guys came to play last night. Very much a full team effort. While the big guns aren’t lighting it up on the score sheet, I much prefer to see balanced scoring, defensive pressure, and a little strong goal tending mixed in just to keep this team on a roll. Apart from some 2nd period flurries the Wild look out manned in this duel. I have to believe they will try and step up their physical game tomorrow, but we appear ready to answer the bell. I also believe this Hawks team will be willing to play that kind of game if it’s needed throughout the playoffs even though we aren’t loaded with multiple big bodies like some other rosters in the Western Conference. Ultimately though it is the skill set that wins you games. Our 4 lines are all running smooth, although didn’t the 4th line get some reduced ice time in the 3rd last night? New look was the full defensive core actually dishing out some physical play. Can’t remember any game at all this year where we had our forwards, and dmen willing to bang at the same time.

    I very much like what I am seeing with the Hawks effort this week. This team is fun to watch and still looks like the front runner for the Cup. Is it me or is the level of play from other goalies around the league a bit soft to start out this playoffs? I’ve seen alot of softies go in so far. Once again, Cory looks like he is seeing the puck well right now.

    On a downer note season ticket invoices showed up yesterday and they don’t read pretty. Another big hike in prices. You would think they would give us a year to digest the last increase. While I can’t be 100% sure, I think prices are up 25% in the last 3-4 years. The other thing that aggravates me is the fact that we just shelled out big dough for playoff tickets, that fortunately was less painful due to rollover from lost games accounted by the lockout. Bottom line is we get hit with some big draw downs in a very short period of time. Why couldn’t the regular season invoices go out next month?

    Ok, I’ll stop whining and say I’m proud of this team and love going to the games.

  4. JS says:

    It’s seriously like the Hawks were acting soft all season and now they are just destroying the body. Saad is a whirling torpedo out there and I’m worried he’s going to hurt himself with one of his out of control hits. Sharp destroying Brodin made me happy inside. Can’t remember who Bollig hit but he nearly removed him from his skates. I had to get up to pee after the Bollig penalty, but was it a bad call? I thought I heard Pat and Steve talking about it after I got back.

    They great thing is they are being physical without being dirty. Not sure how much of other series you have watched, but there is a lot of dirty hockey going on. Bieksa speared our old from Marty Havlat in the nuts and he hasn’t skated another shift since. Dustin Brown kneeing people and attempting flying elbows. The Blues being…. the Blues. I’m loving what the Hawks are doing.

    Would be nice if they could figure out how to score on the PP. 1/8 so far in the series… then again they go 2/9 and suddenly the PP has a really good percentage. They have shown some signs of picking it up, but on a few of the PP’s last night it looked like they were more interested in killing 2 minutes than scoring a goal.

    Crawford haters? Crickets? That flurry of stops on the PK was insane. I was super irritated they didn’t just knock Parise on his ass after the first whack. He was credited with 5 shots in that flurry, which means they gave him too much damn time.

    Finally, Patrick Kane took a huge hit last night but didn’t back down. He is playing so confident right now and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch. That feed to Sharp made scream. On the tape.

  5. wall says:

    JS- I agree w everything you just said… except “the Crow/Crickets” comment…
    he was good- but really that Parise flurry- was about good positioning- reminded me of the Emery vs. Calgary game where Razor stopped Glencross several times because Glencross was 3 inches away from the pads and therefore too close to elevate…

    Solid positioning- which is great! And the Kings and Penguins wish they could say the same about their goalies right now…

    Rosey and Hammer have been very good… Credit to the Hawks Brass for watching the Tapes from Yotes vs. Hawks last year and figuring out how tough Rosey is to play against.

  6. EbonyRaptor says:

    @JS – yes, that boarding call on Bollig was a bad call. It was called by the ref from center ice and from his perspective must have looked like a boarding call but in reality the Wild player ducked and Bollig missed him and just hit the glass.

    Speaking of hitting – WOW! Who are those guys in the Indianhead sweaters? Keep it up boys, you’re looking good.

    I’ll disagree with the criticism of Keith and Seabrook because Keith is lumped in to the criticism. I think Keith is still playing pretty well and have no complaints about him. Seabrook, on the other hand, seems to have as many poor plays as good plays – mainly his passing. While the passing by the whole team was terrible in the first game, especially in the first period, the passing in the second game was much better, except for Seabrook who still couldn’t hit the target and threw the puck away way too oftem last night. That said, he did save a goal last with a good effort to get his foot on a Wild player’s stick so he couldn’t tap the puck into an open net. So all’s well that ends well.

    Crawford for President!

  7. Mike says:

    I am not going to bash Seabrook too much. He is a good solid player. It just seems to me that the Hawks style of play the past couple of years has just passed him by. Remember just a few years back the Hawks played a much more defensive, tight backchecking game in which Seabrook excelled. That said, he needs to step up a bit. If Seabrook can not adapt better, maybe he will be traded to a team better suited to his style of play. (Kieth, his best friend, would not be happy)

    I absolutely love how our young guys are playing…..and that includes Toews and Kane. Says a lot about the system and will guarantee competitiveness for several years. The Hawks skate more “good” players 25 or under than most teams in the league.

  8. John says:

    Liked the looks of the game. Speed was really showing as the game went on, too. Only going to pay bigger dividends as the series moves on and heavy Wild minutes rack up

  9. McKay says:

    Scoring first and then going up 2-0 was huge in this game. That will force any trap to open up. So long as we hit our 3 avg), it does not matter who scores and on which unit.

    Parise and Koivu are not only getting shut down, scored on (agree Wall – how the hell does ZP not put that away when he has time and space with the goalie down and out?). They were on the ice looking stupid for “the Kane goal” too. Brodin and Suter started to look very human last night, too.

    Our best players are beating their best players. Our good players are beating their best players.

    It’s going to be a different game in MN when they can feed off the crowd noise when the physical play picks up. Looking forward to it.

  10. Dean Youngblood says:

    Is Frolik a playoff guy like Bolland? How does he go from can’t finish when he’s wide open and only 3 goals on the season to 2 goals in coverage?

  11. goldenbladz says:

    awesome game by the Hawks, this is a much better effort than game one. Kane was brilliant and nice to see Sharp get a couple as he was saky in game one. Stalberg is a beast and just manhandled the Wild defenders. Please resign him and Leddy for next year. Keep up that effort boys as the competition is going to get tougher as we go.

    Someone mentioned tickets prices. It’s never good to see prices rise, however look at the comparables in other major markets, its still a huge bargain. Try getting tickets in Toronto and they have no where’s near the product on the ice.

    BTW Vancouver YOU SUCK!!!!!!

  12. Sr. Brad says:

    I really get the sense that Toews had a talk with the boys before the series and told them that it is going to take 16 wins to seal the deal…and they might as well make it 16 in a row. This is a hockey team that has barely lost a single game all season long (throw out their last 2 losses), and there is no reason for that to change now. I see this team as united as one, and truly focused on one goal…which is 16 playoff wins and another Stanley Cup.

    Someone said that Keith and Seabrook haven’t been our best DMen thus far, and they are right…that’s how deep and good this hockey team is. Rozy and Oduya have actually been our 2 best DMen with Leddy and Hammer being solid as well…and while Keith has not been bad, he isn’t at an elite level…as for Sebs, too many unforced turnovers.

    I criticized Bowman at the deadline for not going out and getting a legitimate 2nd line Centre rental…well, Handzus is filling that role effectively (Dave Bolland who???). Of course, it also helps having Sharp take some face-offs at nearly a 90% clip. The fact is, that this “puck possession” is making Kane a better hockey player and Sharp is cashing in. The 2nd line is a threat once again, and with the 3rd line dominating games, teams just can’t beat us over 60 minutes.

    As for CC, his rebound control is still a little shaky, but he is playing “tall” by standing up more and and staying focused on the puck. CC has the ability to be an elite NHL goalie, and he is now matching his mental game with his physical game. I think teams are in trouble.

    The physical game the Hawks are playing is incredibly impressive, and like JS said, its almost as if the Hawks played “rope-a-dope” all season long, and they are now off the ropes, and slugging back. Minny didn’t what to make of this barrage…and the Hawks have them back on their heels. If the Hawks stay relatively healthy and keep up this form, I honestly don’t see them losing a single playoff game. The Hawks are going to get a minimum of 1 night off between games during this playoff run, and with that they may very well run the table!

  13. Pete says:

    I still think Bolland has a role to play for the Hawks in the playoffs. I would like to see him back out there as soon as he is fully healthy.

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