Blackhawks look to 'answer the call' vs. the Wild

Blackhawks look to 'answer the call' vs. the Wild

The Minnesota Wild have proven a foil to the Blackhawks lately. Whether it’s been indoors or outdoors, the blowout victory of the come-from-behind variety, the Wild have stymied the Blackhawks in all of their regular-season outings the past season and a half.

Now, they meet again on Wednesday night. Is this a measurement-stick game? Maybe. A critical game? Certainly. The Blackhawks’ biggest test is on this road trip right in front of them. And if the Blackhawks want to get back atop the Western Conference standings, they have to beat them.

“It’s not, you have to catch them or it’s a failure,” Brian Campbell said. “But our goal is to make the playoffs and have the highest seed possible, so to get that we’re going to have to catch Minnesota.”

The Blackhawks trail the Wild, who beat the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night, by six points entering Wednesday night's game. The Wild haven't had many hiccups lately, winning seven of their last 10. The Blackhawks know the Wild have set the new standard and they have to play their best hockey to measure up to it.

“If we look back to the week where we played these guys and Washington a few nights before that, everyone was talking about those being some pretty big tests and we didn’t really answer the call at that time,” Jonathan Toews said. “It wasn’t our best, the way we were playing. The way we’re playing on the road right now going into [Wednesday’s] game, we can really get excited for this game and try to redeem ourselves with a solid road effort.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

You could compare the Wild’s current roll with the one they had in the second half of the 2014-15 season, but this Minnesota team seems different. As coach Joel Quenneville said, these Wild are deeper and, “have more balance up front. Four lines that are looking like they could score and make plays and are trying to score more.”

“They have balance, a back end and are strong in the net. We’re having trouble beating them in the regular season,” Quenneville said. “It’s a huge game for us, probably at this stage, for sure, our most important game. You want to finish first, you want to win as often as possible, you want to push the team ahead of you if you’re not there. but certainly there’s a gap there we’re looking to close.”

The Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Wild on Jan. 15, a game they led 2-0 before Minnesota came back, apparently has stuck in the craw of some players.

“I think a lot of the guys still feel bad about that last game, so we’ll be pumped to play them,” Dennis Rasmussen said. “It’s a big game for us. We want to be first in the division and we want to get [one] back for the last time.”

Despite the Blackhawks’ recent up and downs and the Wild’s consistent play, the gap between the two isn’t so big. It’s certainly not insurmountable. The Wild have set the regular-season benchmark. The Blackhawks want to match it.

“You look across the league, [teams like] Columbus, Washington and Minnesota that get on those hot streaks and eventually they set the new standard where they have a ton of confidence and, even when they’re not playing so well, they’re finding ways to win,” Toews said. “Obviously they’re a tough team to beat right now, so that’s something we’ll be ready for.”

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 6 win over Canucks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 6 win over Canucks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

After failing to close out the series at home in Game 5, the Blackhawks took care of business in Vancouver by eliminating the Canucks following a 5-1 win in Game 6 to advance to the Western Conference Final for the second straight season. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. Contributions all around

The 2010 Blackhawks had ridiculous depth. And they flexed their muscles in Game 6 after three of the four lines contributed on the scoresheet. 

Five different Blackhawks scored in the win (Troy Brouwer, Dave Bolland, Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg) and three others recorded an assist (Brian Campbell, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp). Byfuglien and Kane each had multi-point outings.

2. Dave Bolland ices the game

After a scoreless first period, the Blackhawks scored two goals in a 36-second span in the opening minutes of the second period to take a 2-0 lead. The next goal was going to be a crucial one as the game went on.

With 1:03 left in the period, the Canucks were awarded a power play. It was a prime opportunity to get themselves back in the game and generate momentum. But that did not happen thanks to The Rat.

Bolland, who was a pest all series long, disrupted Pavol Demitra's pass at the point, caught the puck in his hand, dropped it on the ice, fought off Demitra twice and snuck a shot past Robert Luongo to put the Blackhawks up 3-0.

The Canucks never recovered.

3. Containing the Sedin twins

Big-time players make big-time plays in the biggest moments. The Blackhawks are a perfect example of that. Can you think of a better big-game player than Patrick Kane? Jonathan Toews? Duncan Keith? The core together?

The Canucks, at home, had the advantage of drawing favorable defensive matchups. But Henrik and Daniel Sedin went up against Bolland's line, which contained both of them.

At even strength, the Sedins had 15 shot attempts for and six against and seven scoring chances for and four against, according to Natural Stat Trick. But they gave up two goals and scored zero.

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Toronto cancels city events through June 30: here's what it means for NHL

USA Today

Toronto cancels city events through June 30: here's what it means for NHL

Tuesday afternoon Toronto Mayor John Tory announced the city would cancel all major city-wide events until June 30. For baseball fans hoping to start their season and basketball and hockey fans hoping to get back into the swing of theirs, the news makes it hard to envision live sports returning before July. 

What does this mean for the NHL? Well, technically the ban is for city-wide events such as parades, events, festivals, and other cultural programs, excluding the NHL. 

However, professional sports will have to contend with the province of Ontario, which banned gatherings of more than five earlier this month. 

The NHL recently reached out to arenas asking for their availability in July and August. 

The idea of finishing out the 2020 season in summer is becoming more and more likely as governments continue to grapple with the severity of COVID-19. There have been speculations about what this new schedule will look like for the NHL, including a shortened 2020-21 preseason and eliminating by-weeks and All-Star weekend. This will present its own unique challenges, including arenas in warmer climates struggling to maintain ice quality for summer games. But if more major cities follow Toronto’s lead, all we know for certain is that a return to normalcy may be longer than anticipated. 

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