Blackhawks playoff picture: Round 2 against Wild
April 29, 2015
On Saturday, April 25,the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Nashville Predators 4-3 and won their ticket to the second round of the Stanley Cup tournament after winning four of six games of the series. Although one of the Blackhawks toughest opponents is in their rear-view mirror, they suddenly come face-to-face with another opponent that has a lot depth in the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild comes out of a dominating series against the St. Louis Blues by winning the round in six games. One significant reason that led them out of that series so dominant was their recently acquired goalie Devan Dubnyk, who has a .929 save percentage for the regular season. In the final two games against St. Louis, Dubnyk blocked 66 of 68 shots, letting in only one goal each game.
Another reason that they persevered was that the Wild has a superb defense this year. Although St. Louis forward Vladimir Tarasenko pulled a hat trick in game two and scored two more goals in game four, Minnesota held back some of the NHL’s toughest scorers that the Blues had to offer. St. Louis players David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Jaden Schwartz were all held back to only one goal each the entire series.
The Blackhawks also pulled out of their series dominant, but in an entirely different manner. From their strong core group of players to their resilient line of goalies, they proved that they are still the Stanley Cup team we have seen over the past couple of years.
The goalie situation over the past six games for the Blackhawks was interesting to watch unfold. In Corey Crawford’s first four periods of play, he allowed nine goals. In game one of the series, Crawford let in three goals in just the first period. After that, Coach Quenville decided pull Crawford to put Scott Darling in his place, a recently brought up player from the Blackhawk affiliate AHL team, the Rockford Ice Hogs.
In Crawford’s place, Darling pulled a record smashing shutout performance, which led the Blackhawks to win the series opener in overtime 4-3. He broke the NHL record that night for most minutes played in a Stanley Cup game without allowing a goal. The previous record was 56 minutes, which was set by Curtis Joseph in 2008. Darling’s performance raised the bar to a staggering 67 minutes and 44 seconds.
Crawford played Game 2 without Darling’s assistance, and allowed six goals in net. Darling then took the stage for the next three matches; winning games three and four, then losing Game 5.
In Game 6, Darling was shown how Crawford felt after Game 1 by letting in 3-12 shots on goal in the first period. This was mostly due to terrible defense by the Blackhawks defensive line, but devastating nonetheless. In the second period, Crawford was allowed back in goal, and pulled a shutout performance against the Predators the rest of the night. Once Crawford came into goal, Chicago’s defense beefed up drastically. Crawford only saw 13 shots on goal the entire night.
With everything in perspective, the next round will be a rigorous battle to say the least. The Wild look for payback against the Blackhawks from when they lost to them last season in the playoffs 4-2. Chicago is coming back to redeem the embarrassing end to last season where the goal that finished their run was a redirect off of the former Blackhawks defenseman Nicholas Leddy.
Now that round one has passed, the Blackhawks and the Wild will face off sometime later this week, the earliest being on Thursday, April 30. It is uncertain when round two will start due to the NBA finals schedule, with the Chicago Bulls facing the Milwaukee Bucks on April 30 in Milwaukee. It is also very unlikely that we’ll see any round two action happen until the Detroit Redwings face the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 7 of their series on Wednesday, April 29 to finish off the first round of the Stanley Cup.