The Minnesota Wild suffered their most lopsided loss of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night. The Wild fell behind two to zip by the 11:21 mark of the second period before battling back to tie the score just under 7 minutes into the final period. Then Minnesota got Kane’d, twice before giving up an empty net goal that put the game completely out of reach. Looking back at the Wild’s past Stanley Cup Playoff Series, the team has never won game one, not even once. So this is not exactly uncharted water’s for the Minnesota Wild.
Friday night’s game started off well enough and the Wild did look and play better than in some previous game 1’s. Then a string of bad luck for Jonas Brodin started. The lone goal of the opening period came on a 4 minute power play for the Blackhawks created when Brodin took a 4 minute double minor for high sticking. Brodin’s unintentional high stick drew blood on Marian Hossa and the Hawks needed only 1:39 for Bryan Bickell to tip home a Brent Seabrook shot. This would also be the only period in which the Blackhawks outshot the Wild, 13 to 8 was the opening period totals.
In the second period Chicago made it 2-0 on another power play goal. Jonas Brodin was in the box once again for high sticking Marian Hossa. You can’t make this stuff up folks. Only two goals of the first two periods. Both on Power plays created by same infraction, on same opposing player by the same Wild player. The only differences this time around were there was no blood drawn and the goal came from the stick of Marian Hossa. After two periods of play the Minnesota Wild were only down by 2 goals, well with in striking distance.
The most bizzare stat from the second period was the 17 to 3 shot differential in favor of Minnesota. The Blackhawks managed to find the back of the net on 1 of just 3 shots while the Wild and their fans were left trying to figure out how 17 shots on goal translated into zero goals. For the game the Wild would out shoot the Blackhawks 35 to 22. Minnesota would score just twice on Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalovwould yield four goals on the night including 2 in the third period. The final Chicago tally would be an empty netter late in the game.
In the third period the Wild found their scoring touch and tied the score in just under 7 minutes of play. The first Minnesota goal came on a rebound play as Clayton Stoners shot pinballed around a bit before ending up on edge and rolling over the Chicago goal line. After a review the War Room in Toronto agreed and the Wild were on the board. The second Minnesota goal came 6:56 into the period. The Wild’s third line was responsible for this one created when Kyle Brodziak tipped home a Erik Haula shot. Dany Heatley picked up the second assist on the goal. Then the goal well ran dry for the Minnesota Wild as Chicago would score three straight goals over a span of 8:57.
The 8:22 mark of the final period is when the Patrick Kane show started. Kane took the puck in the Blackhawks defeensive zone and headed up ice. He wound his way past, around, and through the Minnesota players on the ice before putting a backhand shot at a tough angle sailing past Bryzgalov for the goal. This was truly a highlight reel play that will be appearing on sports shows for days to come. I’d probably appreciate the play much more if it was against anyone other then the Wild in a Stanley Cup Playoff game.Kane was not done for the night as he put the Blackhawks up by a pair of goals and firmly in the drivers seat 16:47 into the third. This time it was a wrister that eluded Bryzgalov giving Kane 2 goals on 4 shots for the night.
Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo would take a page from the Patrick Roy playbook and pull his goal tender with 2:50 left on the clock. Unlike the Avalanche the Wild promptly turned the puck over and 28 seconds after Bryzgalov was pulled the Blackhawks scored into the empty net to put the game away for sure with a 5-2 score. This game definitely didn’t go the way the Minnesota Wild coaching staff had drawn it up. The Wild did battle back from two goals down but the tank was empty once they got to that point.
Minnesota struggled in several areas of the game against Chicago Friday night. The first two penalty kill situations for the Wild ended up in the back of their net. The PK went just 2 for four on the evening while the Minnesota power play was 0 for 3. Despite out shooting the Blackhawks 35 to 22 the Wild just couldn’t convert on a plethora of good scoring chances. The Wild also had an uncharacteristically poor night in the face off circle, winning just 44% of draws. The Minnesota Wild are quickly finding out while they have improved a great deal in the past year and Chicago has slipped a bit, the Blackhawks are still the defending Stanley Cup Champions for a reason. Make a few mistakes against them and you’ll find yourself down a couple of goals or more in a hurry.
The Wild have until Sunday afternoon to regroup and recharge. Heading back to St. Paul for Tuesday nights matchup tied at a game apiece looks a whole lot better than down 0-2 to the defending champs. I’d venture to say that down 2 games to the Blackhawks is a bigger hole to climb out of than against the Avalanche. I’ll be back Sunday morning with a preview of all the afternoons action. Until then this is Scott Drain still shouting proudly, “LET’S GO WILD – BEAT THE ‘HAWKS – LETS GO WILD!!”