ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Blackhawks have gotten victories a few different ways against the Minnesota Wild.
They’ve won the back-and-forth game. They’ve won the big-scoring game. On Tuesday they won with the goaltending-and-defense game. And all the ways they’ve won have them with a big 3-0 second-round series lead on the Minnesota Wild.
Corey Crawford stopped all 30 shots he faced in the Blackhawks’ 1-0 victory over the Wild, and now Minnesota faces the must-win Game 4 on Thursday night. There’s no doubt the Wild is going to throw everything at the Blackhawks and Crawford, who collected his fourth postseason shutout on Tuesday night.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we call it a night at Xcel Energy Center, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ Game 3 victory over the Wild.
1. Crawford collects a “goalie win.”
That’s coach Joel Quenneville’s phrase for it, and it fit on Tuesday. When Crawford struggles, he looks shaky and his rebound control is suspect. There were nosuch issues on Tuesday. Crawford didn’t allow many rebounds; if he did, the Blackhawks cleared them quickly. Said Patrick Kane, “he’s big in the net. He seems to react really well to pucks and he’s been great throughout the whole year and years past. I think we have all the confidence in the world in him.”
2. Kane does it again.
Kane, who’s now about 10 weeks removed from that fractured left clavicle, just keeps having a stellar postseason. His power-play goal tonight was his sixth goal of the postseason and seventh career playoff goal against the Wild. Kane is on a six-game point streak, with five goals and three assists in that time. Said Quenneville, “he has a hot stick, he’s dangerous. I think he gives a lot of different looks for the goalies. They don’t know where it’s coming off his stick and it has some torque on it as well.”
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3. Defense keeps improving.
The Blackhawks’ team defense was not only giving up a lot of shots early this postseason, they were giving up a lot of quality opportunities. They’ve cut down on both, especially in the last 10 games. The Blackhawks have stymied the Wild, who have just one goal in their last seven periods. Said Duncan Keith, ““You have to be able to win all different ways. It’s a great hockey team over there. Nothing’s been given to us.”
4. The penalty kill comes through, too.
We joked that the Blackhawks basically went on a 20-minute kill in the third period in Game 3. Hey, it seemed that way. But the three times the Blackhawks did go on the kill, they looked good. The Wild didn’t get a shot on their first and third power plays, and Crawford stopped three shots on their second advantage. “We had some timely kills, some disruptions on entries, blocks, clears,” Quenneville said. “There were some real desperate kills by our group, particularly that last one.”
5. In the driver’s seat?
It would be easy to think this series is over, the Blackhawks being great at closing things out when they have sizeable series leads. But they’re also a group that’s been around long enough to know that the Wild isn’t going to go away quietly. The Blackhawks expect the Wild to come with its biggest push on Thursday night. “It’s nice but at the same [time] we can’t be complacent or let up,” Crawford said. “That team is going to play even harder next game. We’ve got to do the same thing.”