Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he'll look back at a 3-0 loss in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks:
In the fourth game of the series, the Blackhawks were able to turn the tables on the Wild, playing a stifling defensive game, while capitalizing on its chances. The Wild outshot the Hawks, 25-24, but were unable to crack goaltender Corey Crawford. The netminder also had a ton of help, as Chicago blocked 26 shots. The Wild didn’t help matters, missing the net on 17 shot attempts.
“At the end of the night, we had 68 shot attempts and only 25 got through,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said after the game.
The contest started as a physical affair. Emotions from Game 3 spilled into tonight, but Chicago deflected the Wild’s early pressure and showed why it had the best regular-season record in the National Hockey League.
“Our focus on getting pucks down low and grinding their defenseman down wasn’t there,” Yeo said. “That’s why you saw some of the back-and-forth play.”
The good news, the series isn’t over. The Wild will travel to Chicago for Game 5 on Thursday and skate to prolong the series. If we’ve learned one thing about this team: it battles when backed into a corner. You can bet that the Wild will throw everything it has at the Blackhawks, making Thursday’s contest appointment viewing.
The Wild has been pretty fortunate on the injury front this season; that is until it came to its goaltenders and the playoffs. In the first period, Jonathan Toews broke in on Josh Harding. Toews lost control of the puck and it slid harmlessly into the corner. The damage was done when Toews fell over the top and landed on Harding. The netminder toughed it out and finished the first, but didn’t return after the intermission.
Darcy Kuemper came in relief for Harding in the second period, making 16 saves in his first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance. In the third period, Niklas Backstrom, who suffered a lower-body injury in warmups during Game 1, sat on the bench as the Wild’s emergency goaltender.
If you’re a little confused on why Backstrom was allowed on the bench, here is NHL Rule 5.3:
In regular League and Playoff games, if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible. This goalkeeper is eligible to sit on the player’s bench, in uniform. In the event that the two regular goalkeepers are injured in quick succession, the third goalkeeper shall be provided with a reasonable amount of time to get dressed, in addition to a two-minute warm-up (except when he enters the game to defend against a penalty shot).
We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get an update on both Harding and Backstrom.
My guess is that Brent Seabrook has been hitting the ibuprofen, cold tub and ice packs pretty hard the last couple of days. On Sunday, Jason Zucker dropped the defenseman with a crushing check in a race for a loose puck. At that point, it was definitely the hit of the series.
Well, that is until Cal Clutterbuck decided he wanted to join the party. Seabrook and Clutterbuck raced into the corner for a loose puck, similarly to Sunday’s footrace with Zucker. This time, however, Seabrook saw Clutterbuck coming and braced for the hit. That might’ve been a bad idea, because this happened. Here’s an overhead look in GIF form. I love the Internet.
Early on Minnesota was taking it to the Hawks, moving its feet and getting in on the forecheck. The Wild created seven power play opportunities tonight; however, was unable to capitalize on the man advantage.
“Power plays, that’s a big story,” Yeo said. “We’ve got to take a look to see what we can do to help our guys.”
Chicago did an excellent job of clogging up the shooting lanes and not giving the Wild many opportunities to fire the puck on goal. That brings us to a point that has become a serious hot button topic for me: yelling ‘SHOOOOOOOOOOOOT!’ when the Wild is on man advantage. Do we really think the guys on the power play aren’t looking to fire the puck on net at every opportunity? Is yelling ‘SHOOOOOOOOOOOT!’ really going to persuade the team to shoot when you want them to? They are not squirts. They have a game plan. If there is a Hawks defender in the shooting lane, they are not going to fire a puck into shin pads. There is a reason the Wild didn’t give up a shorthanded goal, the entire season, until Game 2: the guys running the point don’t aimlessly blast pucks into defenders with their heads down. Sure, it might look like they are passing up shots from the stands, but they are also avoiding getting their shots blocked for a shorthanded chance the other way. Disagree if you want, but trust me—when you’re on the ice and you hear fans yelling ‘SHOOOOOOOOOOOT!’ there is nothing more annoying. It’s like the drunken person at the pub who leans over the bar and hounds a busy bartender for drinks after the barkeep has already seen him. Just don’t do it.
Today, Ryan Suter was deservedly nominated as a finalist for the Norris Trophy, annually awarded “to the defenseman who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.”
We’re a little biased, but Suter would get my vote as the League’s top defenseman, hands down. His impact, on both ends of the ice, cannot be overstated. He has a calming presence on the blue line, makes pinpoint passes and all while playing against the opponent’s top forwards. He sees more ice than a polar bear and never seems out of breath (leading to this website, Is Ryan Suter on the Ice?). Regardless if Suter wins the award or not, he’s already thrown his name in the hat for best Wild blueliner ever, and we get to see him in a Wild sweater for a long time coming.