Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Content Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Second Round:
The opening tilt between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks was as wonky as the bounce off the stanchion that dashed the Wild’s playoff hopes during last year’s Game 6 in overtime. (Don’t get me started, Minnesota nearly got a fortunate bounce of its own late in the third, but the Hockey Gods denied retribution as Jason Pominville pushed a one-timer wide after the puck ricocheted off a stanchion right to the tape of Mikael Granlund).
For both clubs, Game 1 had more ups and downs than an elevator. After 20 minutes, the Hawks looked like it was going to coast out of the building with a win like an employee who put in his or her two weeks notice. Then, the Wild came roaring back in the second period with the fire of a new hire, only to have its hopes thwarted with less than a minute left in the middle frame on a goal Devan Dubnyk would cash in all his PTO to have back. If Game 1 is any indication, this is going to be an exciting, emotional and back-and-forth affair.
Despite the ups and downs, or maybe because of them, this was one entertaining hockey game. However, both teams are going to want to tighten things up defensively moving forward.
So often in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, goaltending can steal you a game and, sometimes, even a series. Both goaltenders would probably like to forget tonight’s contest like an unneeded item on a grocery list. Dubnyk allowed three first period goals on eight shots, while Corey Crawford gave up three tallies on 12 shots in the second period. After a long layoff between series, I’d expect the goaltending to improve. With the game in the balance in the third, both netminders were able to refocus and found their game. Dubnyk saved all eight shots he faced, while Crawford denied all 15 Minnesota attempts.
Already in these playoffs, we’ve seen both netminders bounce back from tough outings. In Game 4 of the first round, Dubnyk gave up six goals, only to stop 66 of his next 68 shots to help the Wild advance past the St. Louis Blues. Meanwhile, Crawford lost his starting job to Scott Darling, only to come in and backstop the Hawks’ series-clinching win against the Nashville Predators.
With the headline-grabbing, high-end offensive skill on the roster, the Blackhawks don’t often get recognized for its defensive play. It was strong D-zone coverage that turned into a Hawks 1-0 lead before the late arriving fans could get into their seats. It looked like things were starting well for Minnesota, as it was setting up a cycle in the offensive zone. The puck came to Mikael Granlund on the left side of the slot and tried to fire a shot on goal, but left wing Brandon Saad collapsed deep to poke the puck off the center’s stick. Saad knocked it to Marian Hossa and the Hawks raced out of the zone.
Of course, after Saad made the nice play in the D-zone he was rewarded in the offensive zone. He chipped the puck past Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and then proceeded to grab the blueliner’s stick as he passed him by. It was a blink-of-the-eye move and the Chicago forward used Suter’s twig to vault around him. Suter thought it should’ve been a penalty. Well, the refs made up for the hold with a call later in the game…
The Wild’s postseason power play continues to produce in the postseason. Tonight, the club scored its fifth PPG of the postseason on its first chance, thanks to a savvy veteran move from the goal scorer. To gain the man advantage, the Wild was on the forecheck and Parise was battling with Michal Rozsival in the corner. The forward hooked the Chicago defenseman’s arm momentarily, causing Rozsival to lean forward. Parise then pulled up like he was actually the one getting held.
On the ensuing power play, Parise made the Hawks pay from a familiar spot. Following a good zone entry, something the Wild has improved dramatically in the postseason, Mikko Koivu threw the puck on net. Vanek pulled the puck from the side of the goal and slipped it to Parise at the edge of the crease. The wing knocked it through goaltender Corey Crawford’s legs for his fourth of the playoffs.
With the goal, Parise became the Wild’s all-time leader in playoff points, passing Marian Gaborik (12-10=22). The wing used tireless work to help set up the team’s third goal. The 30-year-old went into the corner with one of the League’s best defenders, Duncan Keith, and won a one-on-one battle to create a turnover. He then slipped the puck to Granlund, who beat Crawford high at the side of the net.
The wing always seems to elevate his game during the postseason. Tonight marked his 18th career multi-point playoff game and now has 24 points (9-15=24) in the postseason in a Wild sweater. Through seven games in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, Parise leads the Wild in scoring with nine points (4-5=9). Hard work never goes into a slump (for very long), one of the reasons Parise is among the NHL’s leading scorers this postseason.