Minnesota Wild

Wild abruptly fire head coach Bruce Boudreau despite recent surge in playoff standings

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USA TODAY

Wild abruptly fire head coach Bruce Boudreau despite recent surge in playoff standings

The Minnesota Wild announced Friday they've fired head coach Bruce Boudreau, who was in his fourth season with the team.

"I would like to thank Bruce for his hard work and commitment to the Minnesota Wild during his tenure with the organization and wish him and his family the best in the future," Wild GM Bill Guerin said in a statement.

The Wild recently moved within three points of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, winning seven of their last 11 games, posing a question to Bodreau's sudden firing. According to The Athletic, Guerin has been thinking of firing Boudreau for "awhile," and Minnesota blowing a two-goal lead and losing in a shootout Thursday against the Rangers was enough to make the move reality.

In over three seasons with the Wild, Boudreau went 158-110-35 (.579). In 13 seasons overall as an NHL head coach, Boudreau is 567-302-115 (.634) and has made the playoffs 10 times.

Meanwhile, the Wild also announced the hiring of Dean Evason as the interim head coach, who joined the organization as an assistant coach in June 2018.

Boudreau was in his final season of a four-year contract with the Wild before his dismissal. Minnesota sits three points ahead of the Blackhawks in the wild-card standings.

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Four takeaways: Comeback overtime victory gives Blackhawks first four-game winning streak of season

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Comeback overtime victory gives Blackhawks first four-game winning streak of season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Saturday:

1. A gutsy comeback victory

Going into Saturday, the Blackhawks were 5-19-3 when giving up the first goal for a win percentage of .185, which ranked second-to-last in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Wild were 9-1-1 when leading after one period for a win percentage of .818, which ranked sixth.

The Blackhawks battled back and traded goals with the Wild twice before Erik Gustafsson scored the game-winner in overtime for his first multi-goal effort of his NHL career. He had previously gone 15 straight games without a goal. What a way to snap out of that drought.

Since returning from a nine-day break, the Blackhawks have won back-to-back road games in a span of 24 hours and stretched their winning streak to four games, which is a new season long. And they're now only three points out of a wild card spot in the Western Conference, although they still have six teams to jump and all six of those clubs have games in hand. 

2. Power play bounces back

After going 0-for-2 in Buffalo that ended a streak where they scored a power play in nine consecutive games, the Blackhawks bounced back with the man advantage and did so in a big way. 

The Blackhawks were awarded five power plays, and failed to capitalize on the first three. But they didn't on the final two.

Jonathan Toews put the Blackhawks in front 3-2 with 3:35 left in regulation when he tipped in a shot on the power play. Minnesota responded just 1:33 later, but Ryan Suter committed a delay of game penalty with 19 seconds remaining and the Blackhawks converted on a 4-on-3 man advantage in overtime. It was a perfect rebound performance.

3. Point streaks extended

Patrick Kane has been on a ridiculous streak for more than a month now. All season, really. And that continued on Saturday. After recording a primary assist on Toews' power-play goal, he extended his season-long point streak to 11 games and has 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) over that span.

In other news, Alex DeBrincat scored a goal and added two assists to extend his point streak to five games. He's also recorded at least one point in nine of his past 10 games, and has eight goals during that stretch. His 26 goals is two away from matching the total (28) from last season during his rookie campaign, which led the Blackhawks.

And finally, Toews' point streak is now up to four games. He has nine points (five goals, four assists) during that stretch.

4. Dylan Strome heating up

All the attention has been on DeBrincat, Kane and Toews as of late, but there's one notable Blackhawk that's flying under the radar and continues to produce. With two assists against the Wild, Strome has had a multi-point outing in four of his last six games after having just one point in his previous six.

In 29 games with the Blackhawks, Strome has nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points for a points-per-game rate of 0.79. His 82-game pace would be 26 goals and 39 assists for 65 points. He's been a terrific acquisition so far.

Four takeaways: Collin Delia and Patrick Kane steal the show for Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Collin Delia and Patrick Kane steal the show for Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Collin Delia steals the show

Delia's first career start at the United Center came on March 29, 2018 against Winnipeg — better known as The Scott Foster Game — when he stopped 25 of 27 shots (.926 save percentage) in 45:59 of action before leaving with an injury. He eventually was credited with the win.

Let's just say this one probably felt a little better.

The 24-year-old netminder made a career-high 46 saves on 48 shots for a save percentage of .958, earning his third win in four NHL starts and second this season. It's the most saves in a non-overtime victory for the Blackhawks since Dec. 11, 2002 when Jocelyn Thibault stopped 46 shots, according to NBC Sports Chicago's stats guru Chris Kamka. He was locked in all night.

"He’s been good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Can’t say I’m that surprised that he’s performed as he has. He’s very self-aware and I think he built up a lot of confidence last season, that he was capable and he could go through tough times and he could go through adversity and it’s not gonna bother him. He had played a game or two last year and so he’s ready. It’s fun to watch. He’s been good for us."

2. Hat-trick Kane

A three-day break didn't stop Kane from staying hot. He recorded his seventh career NHL hat trick (fifth in the regular season) and, by doing so, extended his point streak to six games, which ties a season long.

Kane is now one of two active players to score at least 20 goals in each of their first 12 NHL seasons, joining Alex Ovechkin who's accomplished that feat 14 years in a row. Jonathan Toews is at 16 goals this season and likely to join the club Kane and Ovechkin are in, too.

Brandon Saad also scored two goals, and both he and Kane were on the ice for the final minutes as they looked to secure the hat trick and victory. It was Kane who got it.

"It’s fun, it's always nice to produce," Kane said. "It was funny. Me and Saad were both on the ice at the same time, so we were kind of just trying to play hockey and make the right play and hopefully one of us finish it off. It was a different situation, for sure.”

3. A lopsided shooting percentage

The Wild were in control for the majority of the game. They had a season-high 85 shot attempts (48 on goal) compared to the Blackhawks 47 attempts (20 on goal). But it was the latter who converted on their opportunities.

The Blackhawks scored three goals on their first 10 shots of the game, prompting Bruce Boudreau to put in Alex Stalock for Devan Dubnyk, who had a .961 save percentage in his past five starts against Chicago going into the game.

"I hate pulling goalies," Boudreau said. "But I just didn't think he was seeing the puck well."

The Blackhawks finished with five goals on 20 shots for a shooting percentage of 25.0. The Wild had only two goals on 48 shots for a shooting percentage of 4.2.

“I don’t think we played the best tonight, but we just found a way to win," Kane said. "That’s something we’ve got to learn to do in here. We don’t have our best some nights. I thought Delia was unreal in net and really held the fort for us. Obviously nice to get out to a lead and build on it, so a few good things, but a few things we need to work on, too.”

4. Power play picking up steam

For the first time this season, the Blackhawks scored two power-play goals in the same game. They were the only team in the NHL that had yet do do that.

But it wasn't just a one-game fluke. The Blackhawks have scored at least one power play in four of their last five games, and are no longer in the basement of the NHL in that department.

"I’ve said it before, I thought we were trending in the right way, the puck just wasn’t going in the net," Colliton said. "You look back at that Montreal game, probably could have scored two or three that game. And then tonight, we made some plays and we had our chances. The second one, we’ll take it. But that’s how hockey works sometimes."

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