Minnesota Wild Outlast Chicago Blackhawks, Clinch Playoff Berth


Good evening Wild fans, the Minnesota Wild played a quiet game and peaked at the right time to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1.

The first period was exactly what the Wild needed. The game was smooth, not physical, and there weren’t any extreme scoring chances on both ends. The surprise for me and even to the commentators was that the Blackhawks weren’t playing physical against the Wild whatsoever. Given that the Wild were playing desperate and were on the second half of a back-to-back, the Blackhawks could have used the physical game to their advantage.

The first period went back and forth with soft shots on goal and very few whistles. The best opportunity for the Wild came 18 minutes into the period when Zach Parise skated into the Chicago zone alone and was able to make his way past the defense. He back handed a shot that beat Corey Crawford but rang off the post.

At the end of the first period, there was no score and the Blackhawks out shot the Wild 8 to 6.

In the second period, the game picked up right where it left off. Light shots on goal were exchanged by both teams. The Wild continuously tried breakout passes but were continuously intercepted or interrupted by the Blackhawks; having Jason Zucker in the lineup was beginning to be a game changer. His speed and tenacity was evident and his energy was really bringing the team to life.

Midway through the second period, a puck was sent into the neutral zone towards Thomas Vanek. Vanek tied up his defender as the puck slid by and he was able to tip it ahead to surging Kyle Brodziak who was in alone on a short breakaway. He made Crawford cover the lower part of the net but didn’t allow Brodziak to go five-hole. The game was still scoreless.

Almost 12 minutes into the game, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was skating into the Wild zone and was tripped by Ryan Suter’s skate. The Wild’s penalty came up big though not allowing the Blackhawks to have any decent scoring chances and even created a decent scoring chance of their own which killed off a large portion of the power-play.

About 4 minutes after the Blackhawks’ power-play, the Wild found themselves on the power-play after the refs flagged them for too many men on the ice. The power-play was again ineffective as the Wild were able to register only one shot on goal.

The period ended just as quickly as the first one did. The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 15-9 in the second period and 23-15 overall.

The first half of the third period was much similar to the first two periods. Both teams skated back and forth but couldn’t create any strong scoring chances. Both goalies were on top of their games and were making all necessary stops and weren’t allowing any solid chances nor were giving up any juicy rebounds.

Finally, Jason Zucker of old came through and had a great scoring chance. He was flying down the left side towards the Blackhawks net and was met by Brent Seabrook right in front of the Blackhawks’ net. Zucker fired the shot wide and his momentum, along with a hit by Brent Seabrook, caused Zucker to awkwardly fall hard into the boards. He appeared to be wincing at first but assured the trainers he was fine. He indeed was okay, more on that shortly.

A couple shifts after Zucker’s surge, the Parise-Granlund-Pominville line took over and created a lot of havoc around Crawford. Jason Pominville passed the puck to Zach Parise was in front of the net. Parise passed the puck behind to Mikael Granlund who faked Crawford to the left and fired the puck into the open net. Wild 1, Blackhawks 0. Zach Parise and Jason Pominville were credited with assists.

Less than four minutes later, Chris Stewart stole the puck at the Wild blue line from Marian Hossa. Stewart was followed closely by Jason Zucker who broke out to the middle of the ice as Stewart was being closed in on by David Rundblad and Duncan Keith. Stewart fed a saucy pass across to Jason Zucker who wristed the puck passed Crawford and into the net extended the Wild’s lead to 2. Wild 2, Blackhawks 0, Chris Stewart and Ryan Stewart were credited with assists on the goal.

The Blackhawks amped up the pressure and were getting more shots on Devan Dubnyk, but nothing came about it. The Blackhawks pulled Crawford with about three minutes left and were playing even harder. The recent “Wild killer,” Bryan Bickell, wristed a strong shot above Devan Dubnyk’s left shoulder and closed the gap to one goal. Wild 2, Blackhawks 1, Patrick Sharp and Niklas Hjalmarsson were credited with the assists.

The Blackhawks would pull Crawford a second time but nothing came of it and the Wild held on to win 2-1, clinching their third playoff berth in a row. The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 33-30.

Tyler’s take:

The Wild took a step back from what they were trying to do in their 5-game home stand and played a very defensive-minded game. The Blackhawks didn’t take advantage of the fact that the Wild were in a heated game the night before which was very helpful for the Wild.

The Wild had a couple good chances and the Blackhawks had some decent chances as well. As the commentators kept saying, the game was going so fast and there were few stops in the first two and a half periods. The Wild seemed to perk up after Zucker’s breakaway chance against Crawford and Seabrook. Seeing Zucker playing the way he did before his injury was mighty impressive considering he missed 27 games. What was even more impressive, if not surprising, was how he was able to play on the top line with Mikko Koivu and Chris Stewart. Remember, Stewart and Zucker hadn’t played together before today, but you would have never noticed.

Even though Zucker was not awarded as a star of the game, he was my number one star of the game. He played with a lot of tenacity and threw his body at the Blackhawks as if he hadn’t missed a beat. It was evident he inspired the Wild with his play and resulted in the Wild earning enough points to clinch a playoff berth.

All week I said that the Wild need to clinch a playoff berth with a win and not with teams behind them losing. In my opinion, that will be more beneficial for the Wild and will be a huge boost for them as they close out the season in Nashville and St. Louis.

That’s all for tonight Wild fans. Put away your razors and start growing out your playoff beards, they are going to get pretty scruffy this year!