Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 1 win over Wild

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Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 1 win over Wild

1. Win the Board Battles.

Minnesota had a special run to end the regular season, going 28-9-3 and then upsetting the St. Louis Blues in the first round. This team has won 14 of their last 17 games on the road.

Yes, goaltender Devan Dubnyk was a big part of the story, but I watched a couple of the games in that St. Louis series and was amazed at how many pucks the Minnesota Wild won in the offensive zone. They have a lot of quick forwards with hockey smarts who pressure the puck in all the right areas. Make sure your exits are clean by getting back quickly, going tape to tape, and stop Minny’s fore check before it gets started.

[MORE: Blackhawks-Wild: Who has the edge?]

At the other end, get pucks deep and get them back with an energized attack. You should be well rested after 6 days rest between games.

2. Get to Dubnyk.

Dubnyk saved the day for the Wild when he was traded from Arizona on Jan. 14. The team has never looked back. Dubnyk went 27-9-2 with a miniscule 1.78 goals against average to close out the regular season. He was recently nominated for the Vezina Trophy, going to the goalie judged to be best at his position.

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But let’s not forget that Darcy Kuemper, another goalie in Minnesota, started the season with three shutouts in his first four starts for the Wild back in October. This is a very well-coached team that limits opponents' shots, conducive to big goalies who make the first stop. The key is getting to the second and third attempts. Rebounds were available in the St. Louis series against Dubnyk, and the Blackhawks have to make sure they are in the area to pick up any loose change.

3. Secondary Scoring a must.

You need your best players to be your best players if you want to advance in the postseason. We certainly saw that in the Hawks last series where Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith all scored goals in that last game and were also big factors in the series win against Nashville.

But any series, especially long ones, need foot soldiers to carry the load and be the heroes every once in a while. Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are capable of providing that secondary scoring the Hawks lacked in the series against Nashville. Minnesota is the kind of team that rolls all four lines, much like the Blackhawks, so getting goals from these types of players is a must.

Was Dennis Gilbert's Sunday scrap the right move for Blackhawks?

Was Dennis Gilbert's Sunday scrap the right move for Blackhawks?

When Blackhawks defenseman Dennis Gilbert skated after Jason Demers, hitting him into the boards, challenging him to fight and beating the doors off him in the second period with Chicago leading 3-2, he was sticking up for a teammate and trying to give the Hawks some life, but it cost them a puck in their own net.

So was it the right move?

"It is if we kill it," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the Hawks being forced to kill Gilbert's instigator penalty. "And I think it sends a good message to the rest of the players that we're in this together and we're going to take care of each other. 

"But I would have liked us to react better the rest of the game after that and that's what we should do to protect each other. I thought that the penalty kill, we were looking for goals at times and when we had the chance to get the puck 200 feet down the ice, we didn't always do that. And I'm not against scoring goals, but let's be smart about it. It cost us."

Gilbert was responding to Demers' hit on Alex DeBrincat in front of the Coyotes' bench near center ice that caused DeBrincat to fall hard into the wall.

"Well, I think it was [a] pretty blatant [penalty] that was missed," Hawks defenseman Calvin de Haan said. "Alex's head went right off the boards. I don't know how they didn't call that one. But good on Dennis to step up and sometimes it takes a big set of cajones to do that. 

"He tried to get a spark for us and I think trying to stick up for your teammates is still part of the game, especially on a hit like that. Kudos to him and I think it was a key time in the game for us and he tried to turn the tables for us."

Gilbert received the instigator for going after Demers, which resulted in a Coyotes' power-play goal from Carl Soderberg. It was Gilbert's second fight in two games. 

"I think it fires us up," DeBrincat said. "I think he’s protecting me. I think he obviously thought it was a dirty hit and takes control of the play. 

"I think it makes a good play for me. I like that he does that. Obviously, at the same time we get a penalty out of it which is not always the best. 

"I think our bench can roll with that and try to kill that off. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Any other penalty we can probably kill off from that one."

Sticking up for a teammate in that fashion goes a long way. The Hawks have been missing a player that makes the opposition answer for their sins the way Gilbert does. You'd like to avoid taking an instigator, but the Blackhawks had an issue with a dangerous hit not being penalized.

It's up to the penalty kill to make that a good penalty. Unfortunately for Gilbert and company, they didn't get the job done. 

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Blackhawks are who we think they are: 'We're inconsistent'

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Blackhawks are who we think they are: 'We're inconsistent'

Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton has always preached focusing on the performance and letting the results take care of itself. Over time, water eventually finds its level.

The Blackhawks are a hard team to figure out.

When they're clicking, the Blackhawks look like a group that can compete with anyone because they can outscore any opponent and win the goaltending battle with either Corey Crawford or Robin Lehner between the pipes. When they're not, they look like a team that's closer to the basement of the NHL than the playoff bubble.

Take the past four games as an example.

The Blackhawks outshot the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues 38-30 but lost 4-0 in a game that didn't feel very close. Then they went to Boston, where they knocked off the NHL's best team 4-3 in overtime despite squandering a three-goal lead in the third period.

Next up was New Jersey, where the Blackhawks and lowly Devils looked to be on the same playing field before the visiting team won 2-1 in a shootout. And on Sunday, the Blackhawks led 30-24 in even-strength scoring chances but racked up 27 penalty minutes and it proved to be the difference in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, who are now tied for the Pacific Division lead.

It's challenging to evaluate who the Blackhawks are as a team because it changes on a nightly basis. So who are they?

"Well for now that is what we are," Colliton said. "We're inconsistent. And it's up to us to commit to doing the things shift-to-shift that will allow us to turn into something more. Simple as that." 

The good news for the Blackhawks is only six points separate themselves from the second wildcard spot and last place in the Western Conference. The bad news is the numbers show they're exactly where they should be.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have a PDO — a metric that combines on-ice shooting percentage and save percentage — of 100.7 during 5-on-5 play, according to Natural Stat Trick. The league average is 100, which suggests this is who the Blackhawks are through 30 games.

"We've just got to keep building on it," Robin Lehner said. "We got a point today, this time we've just got to respond. Next game is the most important game of our season because we've got to keep getting points here now."

Sunday marked the start of another tough stretch where the Blackhawks play seven of the next eight games against teams currently sitting in a playoff spot, all of whom are in the Western Conference, which only heightens the importance of these games.

The Blackhawks will take it one game at a time, but which team shows up for each of them is anybody's guess.

"They're all big," Colliton said of the next game. "It is important how we respond. Because we've had this up and down with our game and we can't expect to get where we want to go if that continues. ... You can have off nights, but then it's how you respond. So we got to respond."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.