The Blackhawks enter Sunday afternoon’s matchup looking to hold serve on home ice and take a 2-0 series lead against Minnesota. The Blackhawks took Game 1 in dramatic fashion, scoring three times in the game’s last 12 minutes to take the 5-2 win, led by two-goal efforts from Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell. Despite being outshot 24-9 in the last two periods of the game, Corey Crawford stood tall, making 30 saves to seal his fifth straight playoff victory. The Blackhawks now have won 15 of their last 17 postseason home games dating to 2013, including five straight (4-0 in 2014).
With his two goals in the third period – including a highlight-reel dangle that was the eventual game-winner – Patrick Kane has now recorded five goals this postseason, tying him with Colorado’s Paul Stastny for the league lead, and he is riding a four-game point streak. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Kane now has 22 multi-point playoff games since 2009, trailing only Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (28) and Evgeni Malkin (22) for the most in the NHL. After opening his postseason career with only two multi-goal games and one game-winning goal in his first 11 series, Kane now has one multi-goal game and one game-winning goal in each of the Blackhawks’ last four playoff series.
Spring has sprung, and with it, Bryan Bickell’s production is growing as well. Bickell tallied the Blackhawks’ first and last goals in Friday’s victory, marking his second multi-goal playoff game. The Orono, Ontario, native has recorded five points (4G, 1A) in his last four games. He also has been a physical force, pacing Chicago and ranking third in the NHL with 37 hits.
Brent Seabrook collected two assists on Friday and now has two points in each of his four appearances (2G, 6A) during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin also began the postseason with multiple points in each of his first four games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, this marks the first time in NHL history that two defensemen have both recorded multiple points in each of their first four games in one playoff year. The only other time two blueliners have posted four consecutive multi-point games at any time in a single postseason was in 1978, when both Montreal’s Larry Robinson and Toronto’s Ian Turnbull achieved the feat.
Corey Crawford made 30 saves in Game 1 to extend his winning streak to five games, matching a career long in the postseason (May 25-June 2, 2013). He now has a 1.98 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage – both good for a top-five ranking in the postseason – and one shutout in seven appearances during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Although they were outshot for most of the last two periods in Game 1, the Blackhawks’ stars found a way to make their limited chances count; in addition to Kane and Bickell, Marian Hossa (1G, 2A) and Patrick Sharp (2A) each had multi-point nights, while Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews had important primary assists. Expect Game 2 to be another fierce battle between two quality puck-possession teams; if the Blackhawks can take more time and space away from the Wild on defense, that could go a long way toward evening the shot totals.