Blackhawks aware Wild not the same team from past playoff battles


Blackhawks aware Wild not the same team from past playoff battles

When the Blackhawks faced the Minnesota Wild in the 2013 Western Conference quarterfinals, most had a pretty good idea of how the series would go.

The Blackhawks were entering the postseason with a head of steam; it was the lockout-shortened season in which the Blackhawks started on a 21-0-3 tear and never looked back. The Wild, meanwhile, had to fight until game No. 48 to get into the postseason. So it wasn’t surprising that the Blackhawks eliminated Minnesota in five games that spring.

Much has changed since then. Last year when the two teams met, it was much closer with the Blackhawks fighting all the way to send the Wild home in six games. And considering how the Wild came on the second half of this season, the Blackhawks are expecting the tussle of their postseason lives in this round.

Indeed, this is not your older brother’s Minnesota Wild.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“You can see from the regular season, how they got in the playoffs and how they played in thefirst round, [that] it’s going to be a different team than the previous years,” Bryan Bickell said. “So we’re excited to be in the second round and have home ice.”

The Blackhawks face a very tricky test in the Wild. In the last two regular-season meetings (aka the Devan Dubnyk era), the Wild beat the Blackhawks both times, holding them to just one goal. The Wild also enter this series as confident as the Blackhawks do; Minnesota eliminated the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 on Sunday afternoon with Dubnyk and Zach Parise having a noticeably strong series. Dubnyk went 4-2-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. Parise had three goals and four assists in those six games, including two goals on Sunday.

[MORE: Crawford in net for Game 1 vs. Wild]

“We feel like it’s going to be a long, hard-fought series but you never know. Anything can happen,” Corey Crawford said. “We have to be prepared to play our best. That team’s been getting better and better every year.”

The Wild is a different team than it was two seasons ago. Actually, it’s not even the same Wild team the Blackhawks faced five months ago; the Wild’s resurgence from mid-January until now was astounding. The Blackhawks are taking the Wild very seriously, as well they should.

“They’re a good hockey team and they had an amazing run to get into the playoffs. They’ve got a lot of confidence. They play an excellent team game. They’ve got some speed, quickness. They’ve gained a lot of momentum at this time of the year off what they’ve achieved,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think we’re very familiar with their team, what they’re capable of doing and knowing that we’ve got a great challenge in front of us.”

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak


Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.