Blackhawks

Five Things from Game 2: 'Our best game all the way around'

patricksharp050315.png

Five Things from Game 2: 'Our best game all the way around'

Sometimes, it’s all about opportunities. When they present themselves, you have to take advantage of them.

The Blackhawks found that out first-hand on Sunday night when they got several chances via the Minnesota Wild and capitalized, taking a 4-1 victory in Game 2 and a 2-0 lead in this second-round series. From Jonathan Toews’ short-handed goal off a 2-on-0 play to Patrick Kane’s two goals, the Blackhawks took what was given and took off.

Just because they’re up 2-0 doesn’t mean they can relax. The Wild will be angry and determined to even this series at home, where they were very good this season. But before we delve into what could happen in Game 3, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Game 2 victory.

1. Corey Crawford rebounds. Minus an ugly goal from Matt Dumba early in the third period, Crawford was stalwart in Game 2. He always talks confidence but there’s no doubt he was shaken during Game 1, especially with the Wild scoring three times in the first 10 minutes of the second period that night. When the Blackhawks needed Crawford on Sunday, he was there. Big stops on Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise in the second period, not long after the Blackhawks took a 1-0 lead, drew the “Co-rey” chants. “They had a couple of big flurries in the game but Corey was outstanding in those situations,” said coach Joel Quenneville. “He kept the momentum going our way even though they had a couple of good looks.”

[RELATED: Stars shine bright as Blackhawks down Wild in Game 2]

2. Patrick Kane hits another milestone. Well, we’re calling 101 postseason points a milestone, anyway. It’s an impressive number for the 26-year-old, whose two goals on Sunday night have brought him to that total. He was one of several of the Blackhawks stars who had a strong night. Said Patrick Sharp of Kane: "No drop-off from the regular season. If anything he steps it up. It seems like he’s always scoring big goals. He’s a guy who wants the puck on his stick at all times and you love that as a teammate.”

3. Mistakes cost the Wild. When the Wild is playing at their best, they're a tough team to beat. Just look at what they were able to do from mid-January to April to even get to the postseason after an awful start. But the Wild’s miscues on Sunday hurt. Ryan Suter finished the night a minus-3 and Thomas Vanek was a minus-4. Said Wild coach Mike Yeo of his team’s uncharacteristic outing: “We didn’t make those mistakes. I don’t know what team played that game, but it wasn’t us tonight. It was 0-0 through the midway point of the game. We were doing some OK things without the puck to keep it at 0-0, but with the puck, like I said, that’s not us.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoff run, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Teuvo Teravainen improving each game. This series is only two games old but the youngster is having a nice showing in it. After recording the game-winner on Friday night, Teravainen grabbed a loose puck and fed it to Patrick Sharp, who scored to restore the Blackhawks’ two-goal lead in the third period. Said Quenneville on Teravainen: “He comes up with a lot of loose pucks. He has good play recognition [and he] made some nice plays off the rush individually and had some decent looks. You like his game both sides, both ways, and he keeps getting better.”

5. Goodbye to Crawford’s black mask. The mask Crawford got for the postseason suffered a costly dent when Marco Scandella’s shot nailed Crawford flush in it on Sunday night. The first concern was obviously for Crawford. He looked a little off not long after that shot but there was no immediate stoppage of play. He stopped a puck or two and then switched masks, going back to his white one, when play was stopped. “Yeah, it was a new one,” said Crawford, who then channeled White Sox play-by-play man Hawk Harrelson. “He gone.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

usatsi_9256612.jpg
USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”