Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Wild vs. Blackhawks recap: What you need to know about Game 2

Every night during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eye On Hockey writers Adam Gretz and Chris Peters will bring you up to speed everything you need to know about all of the action around the NHL. Here's what you need to know about Wild vs. Blackhawks, Game 2
Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks, Game 2
Blackhawks 4, Wild 1 | Blackhawks lead series 2-0 | Game 3, Tuesday
Game 2 in a nutshell: The Minnesota Wild tried to slow the game down early and play a classic "road game" in an effort to shut down the Blackhawks' offense. And for about 30 minutes they were able to do just that. But then they made one too many mistakes in the second period and were never able to get back in the game, losing 4-1 and going back home to Minnesota facing a 2-0 series deficit.
Turning point: Right after the Chicago Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead on Jonathan Toews' shorthanded goal in the second period, Corey Crawford had to make two huge saves, one on Kyle Brodziak on a partial breakaway, and then another on a great scoring chance by Zach Parise. The Blackhawks maintained their lead and then added to it later in the period when Patrick Kane scored with only 25 seconds remaining.
Three things we learned
1. The good Corey Crawford showed up (for the most part), and that is good news for the Blackhawks. Before Sunday Crawford had allowed at least three goals in each of his past nine playoff starts going back to last season's Western Conference Final series against the Los Angeles Kings. That streak ended in Game 2.
The Blackhawks made it to the second round without getting consistent goaltending from either Crawford or backup Scott Darling. If they can get some improvement there this is going to be an extremely difficult team to beat.
The only negative play on the night for Crawford was the goal he gave up to Mathew Dumba early in the third period. It was a great shot by Dumba, but Crawford appeared to have a chance to make the save but completely whiffed on it.
The was also some concern late in the third period when Crawford was hit in the mask by a shot and appeared to be shaken up. He ended up going to the bench and changed masks but remained in the game. Whether or not he has any issues as a result of that shot over the next 24-48 hours will be an important story to watch for the Blackhawks.
2. Ryan Suter had a rough night for the Wild. He was on the ice for both of Chicago's second period goals and played a role in both of them, with the biggest mistake coming on the Toews goal when he was stripped of the puck in the neutral zone by Marian Hossa leading to what was basically a two-on-none rush for the Blackhawks. There isn't a goalie in the league that is going to have a chance against those two guys with no defensive help.
3. The Blackhawks aren't great because they have Toews and Kane. They're great because they have a supporting cast like Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp, among many others, to put around them. A lot of teams have one or two franchise players and are not anywhere near as successful as the Blackhawks are because they don't have the complementary pieces around them. Even though Toews and Kane were two of the goal scorers for Chicago on Sunday, the supporting cast was also on display. Hossa forced the turnover and made the play that led to Toews' goal. Sharp scored a goal off the rush to give the Blackhawks some late insurance. Duncan Keith made the play to set up Kane's goal. Depth matters. You need superstars. And your superstars need help.