Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks:
If anything, the Minnesota Wild can take a lesson away from tonight’s loss against the Chicago Blackhawks: how to respond when you’re not happy with recent performances. The Hawks were lucky to win in Minnesota on Thursday and followed that up with a loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday, 5-2. Tonight, the team turned things around back on home ice at United Center.
It was a quick start for the Hawks, who secured a two goal lead only 7:53 into the first period, both on pretty passing plays from its two biggest stars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The stars came out to play for the Blackhawks, Toews and Kane had two assists each, while Brad Richards, Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell (more on him in a moment) all had a goal and an assist.
The road remains difficult for Minnesota, traveling to Pittsburgh to face the Eastern Conference’s third place team, the Penguins, on Tuesday. If the Wild can take any solace from tonight’s game, things can turn around quickly, but it will need a good start in the Steel City, much like the Hawks tonight.
When the Hawks come to play, teams have to be wary of a number of offensive threats. The names Kane, Toews, Hossa and Patrick Sharp are consistent offensive threats that come to mind when thinking of Chicago. Then there’s Bickell, seems to light up like the Windy City skyline when playing the Wild.
In his last six regular season games, Bickell has scored five goals and an assist. This year, Bickell has nine goals, three of them coming against Minnesota. In the last two post seasons, the forward has seven goals and three assists. There isn’t always a rhyme or reason for success, and sometimes players matchup well against a certain team. For Bickell, that team is the Wild. We know one man who is especially excited for Tuesday, Feb. 3.
For the second time this season, and second time at United Center, the Wild was awarded a penalty shot. Jason Zucker used a burst of speed to get around Hawks defender Johnny Oduya, who hooked the quick forward down.
Starting at center ice, the Wild wing sped down the ice against Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford. Zucker took the puck from left to right, moving to his backhand. It was similar to the move that Nino Niederreiter successfully used on Dec. 16 against Hawks netminder Antti Raanta. He had Crawford beat, but floated the puck just wide of the right post.
On the attempt, Zucker used his greatest asset: his speed. Crawford had to quickly backpedal into the net and was unable to gauge Zucker’s pace. Unfortunately, the puck just drifted away from the forward, much like an object in the next Take…
When a goaltender loses his stick, they can look as rattled as a guy at the bar who has misplaced his cell phone. It typically doesn’t stray too far from the crease area but tonight Crawford’s stick drifted away like Wilson floated from Chuck Noland’s makeshift boat in the movie Castaway.
With the Wild on the forecheck, Crawford attempted to impede the progress of Charlie Coyle; only his stick got tied up in Coyle and Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw. The twig bounced into the corner, but it wasn’t done on its pilgrimage away from its owner. As Coyle and Shaw battled for the puck, the branch went along for the ride, getting dragged like butter on piece of toast. The stick skidded out between the tops of the circles and play continued in the Hawks zone. After several seconds, Chicago finally was able to clear and Crawford ventured out to get the paddle. Hawks fans near the D-zone were happy to see the stick returned to its owner and gave a big round of applause.
One of the cool things about traveling to opposing teams’ buildings is watching the different in-arena game operations. Of course, Chicago is known for its rendition of the National Anthem, as the fans cheer throughout the song. The Hawks also have some pretty cool and unique in-game promotions and video features, too. However, it only takes one obnoxious fan to derail the good time.
In the second period, the cameras focused on Hawks fans and placed them on the video board with little thought bubbles popping up in the corner of the screen. The thought bubble with the first couple, wearing Blackhawks jerseys, read, “Please don’t put me on the Kiss Cam.” The Hawks’ game-operations people must’ve had intuitively known what the man was thinking because he give the camera the one-finger salute, and I don’t think he was messaging “Hawks No. 1.”