Closing it out: Five things from Blackhawks-Wild


Closing it out: Five things from Blackhawks-Wild

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.

[MORE: Blackhawks sweep Wild, move on to Western Conference Final]

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.

[SHOP: Get a Patrick Kane jersey here]

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.

Anthem singer Wayne Messmer talks 1991 NHL All-Star Game rendition

Anthem singer Wayne Messmer talks 1991 NHL All-Star Game rendition

Wayne Messmer, the National Anthem singer from the 1991 NHL All-Star Game, chatted with NBC Sports Chicago on the Blackhawks Talk podcast about one of the most iconic moments in Chicago sports history.

On Jan. 19, 1991 the NHL All-Star Game was held at Chicago Stadium. The celebration of the league's best players commenced just two days after Operation Desert Storm began the Gulf War. 

Messmer has sung the National Anthem around Chicago for 30 years and was the Blackhawks anthem singer for 13. He notes the tradition of Hawks fans cheering the anthem began ahead of a 1985 playoff contest, with Chicago down 2-0 in the series to the Edmonton Oilers.

"It had been a little noisy when Hawks had played Vancouver," Messmer said. "Perhaps the year before or even in '83, but it was really games 3 and 4 of that series, the conference finals against Gretzky and the gang from Edmonton, where it began."

Messmer believes the '91 All-Star anthem was the hockey universe's introduction to Chicago's way of enjoying the Star Spangled Banner.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "Because it was a few weeks earlier there was a game on that was televised nationally from the stadium and the decision was, 'Do not carry the anthem.' There was kind of a pushback, especially from the fans. 

"So when they announced NBC was going to cover both anthems, it was like a challenge to the fans, 'Let's show them how it's done here.' And the signs and the flares and the sparklers and all of that, it was Twilight Zone surreal. You had to pinch yourself because it was really happening.

"And trying to get through that as a vocalist isn't easy because you got a huge, emotional lump in your throat. You want to be a part of that, but you're the guy that's got to light the wick."

The singer was able to take in the moment despite his monumental duty that day.

"I was certainly soaking it in," Messmer said. "I've always, as I will describe it, 'lived life with my eyes open.' But, I will tell you, it took enormous concentration. And I'm not saying, 'Hey, how swell I am,' but it's a technique of concentrating on technique, on breathing, on supporting and not shouting, not screaming and not trying to get louder because the crowd is getting louder." 

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Patrick Kane views booing in St. Louis as 'a sign of respect'

Patrick Kane views booing in St. Louis as 'a sign of respect'

ST. LOUIS — Of the 11 NHL All-Stars from the Central Division this season, four of them are Blues: Jordan Binnington, Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron and Alex Pietrangelo. And deservedly so.

The other seven were all booed by Blues fans on Friday, but none were louder than the ones Patrick Kane drew.

Kane steps on the ice for warmups? Boos.

Kane’s name announced as a Central Division representative? Boos.

Kane touches the puck for one of the skills challenges? Boos.

Heck, even during Thursday’s media session, when seven other skaters were talking at the same time as Kane, he was interrupted by boos.

So when the nine-time Blackhawks All-Star won the Shooting Stars challenge at the Skills Competition on Friday, Blues fans weren’t afraid to show how they felt about it. It didn’t help that it was the final event of the night, either.

After the competition, Kane was asked about the crowd reception in St. Louis. And he responded in terrific fashion.

"The boys were asking me why I was getting booed," Kane said. "And I said I shouldn't have scored those overtime playoff goals against them and maybe they wouldn't have booed me."

Over the last decade, Kane helped lead the Blackhawks to nine consecutive playoff appearances, five Conference Finals and three Stanley Cup runs. He was a thorn in the side of every Central Division team over that span, including the Blues.

In 64 career games against the Blues, Kane has 25 goals and 38 assists for 63 points. He also has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in 13 postseasons contests, with two of those goals being game winners.

As they say, fans don’t boo nobodies.

"I remember me and my dad, we went to watch the Flyers and Sabres fans were booing [Eric] Lindros the whole game," Kane recalled. "I think he got kicked out with like 10 minutes left in the game or something, and then the game was no fun anymore because there was no one left to boo or watch. 

“You kind of view it as, obviously it’s somewhat a sign of hatred, but somewhat a sign of respect too. It’s fun when you play in Nashville or Winnipeg or places like that, and you hold onto the puck and they’re booing you and you want to hold onto it longer. [Duncan Keith] get booed in Vancouver, which is always pretty funny to see him up his game a little bit and hold onto the puck as well. It’s somewhat a sign of respect.”

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