Welcome to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, State of Hockey Legion!
The Minnesota Wild skates for Lord Stanley’s chalice for the first time in five years. Is there any better feeling than the excitement and energy of playoff hockey? This is why they play the game and the Wild will be on the big stage against the Chicago Red Sparrows, also known as the Blackhawks. The Hawks won the President’s Trophy, as the National Hockey League’s team with the best regular-season record. However, everything resets in the postseason and all teams entering the postseason are 0-0.
Not many hockey ‘experts’ are giving Minnesota much of a chance in the series, but that’s fine. Being written off as underdogs is the way Minnesotans like it. If these so called experts knew everything, they’d be in Vegas making a Brink's truckloads of money, not on television spouting their opinions. Here’s another fun fact, three of the last four President Trophy winners have been knocked out of the playoffs in the opening round. So, despite what the hockey talking heads opine, the Wild is going to have a say in who takes the series.
Having a big say in the outcome of the game will be Josh Harding. The goaltender will get the nod in net tonight. He'll be in because Niklas Backstrom suffered an injury during warmups.
Rejoining the Wild’s defensive corps tonight will be Marco Scandella. The blueliner was recalled yesterday and will skate alongside Jared Spurgeon. Scandella has played in 89 NHL games racking up 15 points (4-11=15).
Tonight, Minnesota will be without forward Jason Pominville. The winger missed the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury. He skated with the team yesterday, but did not participate in the morning skate. Dany Heatley is out for the remainder of the season after having surgery on his shoulder.
Healthy scratches for the Wild will be defensemen Brett Clark, Justin Falk and Nate Prosser.
The Wild represents the State of Hockey in its road whites, while Chicago is outfitted in its traditional red sweaters.
As always, we’ll be live tweeting the action at @mnwildLIVE. Use the hashtag #CHIvsMIN to get in on the conversation.
Let’s playoff hockey!
Period 1 - MIN 1, CHI 0
The Wild got off to the exact start it wanted, scoring at the five-minute mark of the first period and played a stingy defensive game the rest of the way.
Cal Clutterbuck took Clayton Stoner pass at his own blue line and took off. The winger weaved through the neutral zone and cut to the left side of the ice. He fired a wrist shot, short side past Chicago netminder Corey Crawford. It was the first marker of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Minnesota did a good job of clogging up the neutral zone and slowing the oncoming Hawks forwards. Shots were, 6-6, and Harding was steady in net. Great opening road period in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Wild. Let's keep this up.
Period 2 - MIN 1, CHI 1
The Blackhawks answered with a power play goal at the start of the second period, but that was all the scoring in a tight-checking game.
Patrick Kane picked up a pass from Duncan Keith and wound it up through the neutral zone. He dumped a backhand saucer pass to a breaking Marian Hossa, who fired the puck over a sliding Harding.
Chicago owns a 16-13 shot advantage through two periods. Both teams have had a number of good scoring chances, but the goaltenders are playing solid. This could very well be a next-goal-wins situation.
Period 3 - MIN 1, CHI 1
Okay, so that was some heart-pounding hockey in the third period. The Wild was caught on its heels a few times, but Josh Harding came up absolutely huge when the team need him the most. Now it's time for sudden death. The Blackhawks outshooting the Wild, 28-20, through regulation.
Now this is playoff hockey, baby!
Overtime - MIN 1, CHI 2
Neither team deserved to lose Game 1, especially not Minnesota, but I'm biased.
The Hawks grabbed the first game in the best-of-seven series, 2-1, in an absolute thriller of a game in overtime. Viktor Stalberg found Bryan Bickell breaking into the slot. He pulled the puck to his backhand and slipped it through Harding's legs.
Harding played one heck of a game, making 36 saves on the night. The good news, it's only Game 1 and we get to do it all over again on Friday. See you all there.