Chicago, IL — Recapping the series against the Minnesota Wild, who were the hottest team coming into the playoffs, is also the series that you could say the Chicago Blackhawks also found themselves and their game. For the first time in awhile the Hawks played hockey like the Hawks we know. They played like champions.
This is the series that saw the team step up defensively and Corey Crawford return to the form that we saw him at during most of the regular season. The entire team played at their Jennings Trophy form and the results were resounding with a sweep of a very talented good team in the Minnesota Wild.
The Blackhawks found themselves at just the right time and now for the 5th time in 7 years have punched their ticket to the Western Conference Finals. If there was any doubt if the Hawks lost their killer instincts or focus on closing that was dispelled in resounding fashion in the final two games in Minnesota where the Hawks really put a stranglehold on the Wild. The Wild never led the entire series, now that is total domination by one team over another.
What was brilliant on the Hawks part was to place doubt in the oppositions mind right off the start and never let up and show any weakness. Even when the Wild tied the Hawks they quickly re-established who was in charge and control and that probably broke the Wild in the end.
How frustrating it must be to see Patrick Kane, who by the way, is not fully back to himself turn back into the Patrick Kane we are all used to. He had 2 GWG in the series in games 2 and 3. He had 5 goals and 1 assist in the Minnesota series. If that is not him at 100% it is really scary for whoever they have next.
But it wasn’t just Kane. Teuvo Teravainen tapped a bit of what he can become in this league. The kid makes plays on both sides of the puck and always is defensively sound. He only has 1G & 1A in the series but I think it is arguable that it was the Teravainen goal that turned the series for a couple of reasons.
One it established that coming back on the Hawks will not rattle them and they will keep coming at you and 2. Since it was such an ugly goal it showed that Devan Dubnyk was not the same as he was coming into the series and he was vulnerable as was the team.
Antoine Vermette it is no secret has struggled since the Hawks acquired him but there is more to Vermette than scoring, in fact he is dominating at the dot with 64% FOW %.The Hawks will need this to continue if the Hawks face the Anaheim Ducks. Vermette also is contributing on the defensive side as well with 6 blocked shots.
Speaking of the defensive side of the puck for forwards it is no surprise Marian “beast” Hossa is leading the forwards with 12 take aways but what is a little surprising is who is next Patrick Kane.
Jonathan Toews line was constantly drawing the attention of the Wild which was probably a good thing as it freed up the other lines for some offense. Toews again was 50% on FOW and shouldered most of the dot work.
Patrick Sharp also had a hell of a series with 1G & 3A and Duncan Keith Offensively had 3A and all the time on ice that he logged in the series was more than impressive. Andrew Shaw also has stepped up at the face off circle with a 53.2% FOW which again will be needed in the next round. He also contributed in this series with 1G & 2A. A shout out also to Andrew Desjardins who has really been stellar since the Hawks picked him up at the trade deadline for steady, straight ahead play.
While the Hawks are not known for hitting Bryan Bickell led the way with 64 hits followed by Rozy with 23 and he will be missed here for sure but it was Shaw and Vermette yes not the biggest guys next with 20 hits apiece. So it does take an entire team to win a series.
The defenseman led the way in blocked shots with Oduya, Hjalmarsson, Seabrook, Keith, Timonen leading the way.
If Teuvo Teravainen grew up in this series I would be remiss not to mention Marcus Kruger who was phenomenal as usual in his defensive dominance and checking and backchecking. Kruger had 7 blocked shots in the series and also managed a goal in the first game. The other forwards blocking shots in this series Bickell, Richards and Vermette with 6 apiece.
Corey Crawford stole game three which may have been another turning point in the series as it was the first game in Minnesota and a game that really one had to think the Wild played their best. They say it is not a series til you lose on your own ice and Crawford made sure with a shut-out that the straws that Teravainen’s goal but on the Wild’s back got broken with him denying them any goals on their own ice.
Craaaawwwwfordddddd – Note to opposing fan bases this just fires him up so, if smart you will not do goalie chants mockingly. Corey in this series let in just 7 goals on 131 shots on goal now that is rebounding in a big time way.
The Hawks now wait to see who their next opponent will be but does it really matter? When the Hawks play the way they are capable of and are lock scoped on the tasks at hand I’m not sure it really does matter. Will losing Rozsival hurt yes, but this team knows how to put the lock down on when it needs to defensively.
Next round will be a challenge for sure but going into the Western Conference Finals the Blackhawks are looking and playing the best they have as a team all of this year. They have time to rest up, study film and I’m sure the coaches are devising plans for line match-ups as the job is only half way done but in the first half the boys are looking good.