Blackhawks

Wild shifting focus heading into Game 3 vs. Blackhawks

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Wild shifting focus heading into Game 3 vs. Blackhawks

Prior to Game 2 of their second-round series against the Blackhawks, the Minnesota Wild had yet to lose back-to-back games in regulation since acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk back in January.

A 4-1 loss put the Wild down two games in the series, but if you ask coach Mike Yeo, the team that lost on Sunday isn't the same group he's seen over the last four months.

"I don't know what team played that game, but it wasn't us," he said after the loss. "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."

Part of Minnesota's struggles had more to do with the Blackhawks putting on a stronger defensive performance from Corey Crawford on out. It took the Wild nearly half the first period to register a shot on goal and until the third for Matt Dumba to find the back of the net.

But there were mistakes Minnesota made defensively that gave the Blackhawks too many opportunities that they managed to capitalize on. Much of that, Yeo believes, is due to where the team's focus was heading into the game.

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"I think the way we went into this game, obviously we put a great deal of importance, but when that happens quite often you have to make sure the focus is right and the focus is on the process," Yeo continued. "I think we were focused on the goal and focused on the win and not focused on the things we needed to do."

The Wild head back home in an unfavorable situation, down two games against the team that ended their season in each of the last two postseasons.

But after facing the Blackhawks multiple years in a row, they feel they have a better grasp on the team and the way they play. Now the Wild will be back at home in front of their crowd, and they hope that can spark some change as they shift their focus heading into Game 3.

"We know they know how to win hockey games, and we know how good of a team they are," Nino Niederreiter said of the Blackhawks. "We gotta make sure we focus on us, and (Sunday) I feel like we were thinking too much about them instead of playing our game and the hockey we know how to play. I think we played the game in their favor, and we gotta make sure we bounce back (Tuesday) and play our game."

Report: Where could the NHL potentially finish the 2019-20 season?

Report: Where could the NHL potentially finish the 2019-20 season?

Sunday night, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the NHL and NHLPA have begun tossing around ideas for where the league could finish potential regular season or playoff games, if the COVID-19 pause were lifted.

The NHL pause went into effect on March 12 due to concerns with the coronavirus pandemic.

Friedman reported one location discussed was North Dakota. 

"Several sites would be necessary, but Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D., makes sense," he wrote. "Host of the 2005 World Junior Championships, the 2016 World Under-18s and the NCAA’s Fighting Hawks, it is an impressive facility that is definitely more suitable than many other available non-NHL options in the United States."

The NHL and NHLPA are expected to discuss other locations this week per Friedman. 

"The league and players must agree on any return-to-play scenarios," he added. "The players are very concerned about the potential of 35 per cent escrow on future paycheques, and whether or not the NHL will consider allowing that to be paid over multiple years. (CBA discussions are believed to be taking place.)"

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How COVID-19 crisis could impact Blackhawks, NHL's salary cap

How COVID-19 crisis could impact Blackhawks, NHL's salary cap

On March 4, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told general managers that the projected salary cap for the 2020-21 season is expected to be in the range of $84 million and $88.2 million. That's roughly a $2.5 million to $6.7 million increase after it went up only $2 million last season.

But eight days later, the NHL put its season on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's unclear if or when hockey will even resume at this point. Because of the uncertainty and the risk of the league potentially losing $1 billion in hockey-related revenue, there's legitimate concern about what the ceiling could look like after we get through this, and not just for next season.

Could the NHL's salary cap stay the same? Might it even go down to help ease the escrow pain for players? Anything is possible, but it would require both the NHL and NHLPA to come to an agreement on what that artificial number could look like.

If the salary cap remains flat, the Blackhawks would be one of the many teams that would find themselves in an extremely tough position. And they better start preparing for that scenario.

As of right now, the Blackhawks' projected cap hit for next season is $74.1 million, according to Cap Friendly. That number factors in the three players on long-term injured reserve (Calvin de Haan, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw) but also includes the current players on the roster, which comes out to 26 total, so cuts obviously must be made to get down to the maximum of 23.

But what that number doesn't include is the potential performance bonus overages and the fact the Blackhawks don't have a goaltender signed beyond this season other than Collin Delia, which doesn't leave much room for free agent signings elsewhere. Heck, taking care of their own guys is going to be a major challenge.

The Blackhawks have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome. Corey Crawford is their highest-profile unrestricted free agent. Those are four key pieces the Blackhawks must try to squeeze in under the cap if the priority is to bring all of them back, and — loosely projecting — gives them around $9-10 million to do so.

You have to wonder if it makes more sense for everyone involved to agree on one-year deals and revisit things the following year after more clarity is provided on the NHL's financial situation, especially with Seattle preparing for league entry and the U.S. television deal set to expire after the 2021-22 season.

For now, the Blackhawks and the rest of the NHL are waiting to see what the next steps are. But the financial ramifications will be significant, and it's something every team must now navigate through. 

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.