ST. PAUL, Minn. — When the Blackhawks began their second-round series with the Minnesota Wild, many expected this series to go six, seven games to declare a winner.
But in just four games — albeit four close games — the Blackhawks dispatched the Wild for the third consecutive postseason. The end came quicker than most of us foresaw, even those of us who shun predictions like Dracula shuns sunlight. Maybe it was experience, maybe it was all parts of their game clicking, but the Blackhawks collected their second series sweep since 2010, when they did the same to the San Jose Sharks in that year’s Western Conference Finals.
So before we pack up and head home for an extended rest, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 4-3 victory over the Wild.
1. Playing to the end.
Yes, it was an interesting ending with the Wild scoring twice in the final two-plus minutes to cut Chicago’s lead to just one goal. As coach Joel Quenneville called it, it was “haywire.” Still, this was a pretty complete effort, not just in this game but also in the other three. The Blackhawks knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They knew the Wild would come with everything it had, and it just about forced a Game 5. But credit the Blackhawks for coming up with that one last stop at the end to avoid playing another game.
2. Patrick Kane does it again.
Let’s all move past the “oh, he was supposed to be out 12 weeks” thing, shall we? Kane isn’t the first guy to come back after six or seven weeks from a fractured clavicle. Not sure, though, that many have come back as well as he has. After a decent first round Kane took off in this one, and he scored his fifth goal of this series in the third period tonight. Said Kane following this one, “I still think there’s some areas that I can try to improve a little bit.” Sure, let’s go with that.
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3. Defensive changes coming.
Michal Rozsival suffered a horrific-looking left-leg injury on Thursday night and Quenneville said it “doesn’t look good.” Doubt Rozsival is back for the Western Conference Finals or beyond this postseason. The Blackhawks’ remaining defensemen, especially the top four, played well in the period-plus of Rozsival’s absence. Those four will benefit from the rest they’ll get now and Quenneville has to figure out his fifth and sixth defensemen. Does David Rundblad draw in? Does Kimmo Timonen, who’s playing limited minutes stay in the lineup? As Quenneville always tells us, we’ll see.
4. A frustrating end for the Wild.
Minnesota thought it had enough to get over the hump this season, to finally beat the Blackhawks in the postseason. But as in the previous two times against the Blackhawks, the Wild’s best weren’t that in this series. Zach Parise had just one goal, and that was in Game 1. Same for Nino Niederreiter, who didn’t score until the waning minutes of Game 4. Ryan Suter had a horrible series. Devan Dubnyk wasn’t the difference in goal. The Wild had a tremendous second half to the regular season. They deserve full marks for getting this far. But head to head vs. the Blackhawks, the same issues were there once again.
5. Get some rest.
We’ll see how long this Western Conference Final wait ends up being, but the Blackhawks will take any rest they can get this time of year. They should have a couple of days, at least, to relax, unwind and watch other teams play hockey. Let’s not get into the rust-or-ready stuff yet. It’s the postseason, and healing bumps and bruises, even if they’re minor, is more important right now. The Blackhawks have earned a nice break. They’ll use it wisely.