Blackhawks take stranglehold on series with Wild
Chicago Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik scores on Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding during their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series in Chicago, May 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Jim Young)
The universe is unfolding as it should.
Unfortunately for the Minnesota Wild, “as it should” means collapsing on them in a black hole of heartbreak and defeat.
After spending $196 million on free agents in the summer and then underachieving their way to an eighth-place finish in the Western Conference during the regular season, the Wild are discovering their opening-round opponent is likely going to be their closing-round opponent.
As expected, the Wild are trailing their series with the President’s Trophy-winning Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 after a 5-2 decision Friday at the United Center.
And judging from what we saw in Game 2, a comeback doesn’t appear to be in the stars.
“We have to keep wearing them down as much as we can,” said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who likes the poise and confidence the Blackhawks have shown in both games. “When you have that feeling, that you’re not afraid to make mistakes, it’s definitely going to help you win.”
Though they haven’t lost on home ice yet, the Wild are still in big trouble. The Hawks haven’t had a stretch this season where they’ve lost four of five games, which is exactly what the Wild will have to have happen to pull this thing out of the fire.
Minnesota has some dangerous players, like the free-agent duo of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but the Hawks look better in just about every area. And they know it.
“I think we have to be respectful of what they’re capable of, they’ve had some pretty good stretches over the last two seasons,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. “But we want to focus on what we’re capable of.”
The Hawks out-shot the visitors 17-7 in the first period Friday and could have been up by a bunch if not for another strong start from netminder Josh Harding, who’s quickly turning his battle with multiple sclerosis into a non-issue. He’s been their best player.
The Minnesota backup faced a handful of five-star chances but only gave up Michael Frolik’s first of the playoffs at 8:34, a rather lucky one, with a blocked shot bouncing right to his stick by the side of the net.
Unfortunately for the Wild, it became 2-0 just 49 seconds into the second when Frolik scored another. Minnesota, after not having given up a shorthanded goal all season, gave up a killer when another blocked shot bounced right to Frolik’s stick.
The Wild made their big push midway through the second period, applying several minutes worth of pressure and closing the shots to 22-19. Still no goal.
Then, with time running out in the second, and teams playing the kind of back and forth hockey that was supposed to favour Chicago, Devin Setoguchi put one over Corey Crawford’s shoulder for Minnesota’s first goal in 109:44. Almost six periods after scoring on their first shot of the series, they got another one and were back in the game, trailing 2-1 after 40.
Patrick Sharp made it 3-1 four minutes into the third and then 4-1 with 5:52 to play. Bryan Bickell added an empty netter.
Minnesota goes home having scored three goals in 136:35. Not good enough.
“They’re not an easy team to create offence against,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “We have to be ready to break them down, We have to find a way to be a little tougher to play against, a mind-set that we’re going to break them down.”