The Wild pulled a bit of a shocker on Sunday afternoon by not only defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime, but also outplaying them for the majority of the game on top of that. Chicago matches up favorably to the Wild in just about every area, so many were expecting this series to be a quick one but the Wild showed in that game that they could hang tough with one of the best teams in the NHL. Chicago's response to this was to play a much more conservative game and focus completely on shutting down the Wild's offense.
They accomplished this well on Tuesday night by holding Minnesota to only 11 total scoring chances and six at even strength, which is as much as some teams record in an entire period. The Wild had the distinct edge in zone time and puck-possession, but it didn't matter that much because Chicago scored on their first shot of the game and focused on defense the rest of the way. They weren't playing as much of an end-to-end game as they were in the first three game and were more content with settling for safer clears rather than trying to lead odd-man rushes with their breakouts. It's all they needed to do, though since they were able to score early and the Wild had virtually no offense going for them.
All Chicago has to do now is win one more game at home and they are good to go for the next round and judging from how Games 1 & 2 went, this shouldn't be too hard of a task.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild Game Four
Very low-event game here. The Wild ended up having the overall edge in chances because of a power play because they generated five on their first power play in the third period but they did virtually nothing outside of that. Like I said earlier, Chicago scored on their first two scoring chances of the game and they put all of their focus on containing the Wild after that, which they accomplished well. The Wild were kind of forcing the issue since they didn't seem to adjust to Chicago's well at all. Their entries into the zone were mostly started by having a forward or defenseman chip it in and have their forecheck establish some offensive pressure. Chicago was winning all of the battles to the loose pucks and didn't have much of an issue with clearing them out of the zone. After that, the process just repeated itself for what felt like the rest of the game. Chicago didn't have much time on the attack but they didn't need to either since they spent the entire game defending a lead.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Jonathan Toews +4
Worst EV Forward: Bryan Bickell -3
Best EV Defenseman: Niklas Hjalmarsson +5
Worst EV Defensemen: Nick Leddy & Brent Seabrook -3
Save for a weird goal from Bryan Bickell, all of Chicago's offense came from their top two lines with Sharp scoring two goals and Jonathan Toews having a very productive night at even strength. Toews also had a great performance on the penalty kill, surrendering no even strength chances in over five minutes of shorthanded time. The Duncan Keith/Niklas Hjalarmsson also had a terrific game defensively as they completely shut down the Wild's top forwards. Most of the Hawks played well defensively, though with the one big exception being Michal Handzus, who was inexplicably on the ice for every single scoring chance the Wild recorded at even strength.
Wild Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Pierre-Marc Bouchard +2
Worst EV Forwards: Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Torrey Mitchell & Stephane Veilleux -2
Best EV Defenseman: Tom Gilbert +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Jonas Brodin, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon -2
The Wild's top two lines generated a combined three scoring chances at even strength with their second line being held off the scoresheet completely. This kind of offensive production just isn't going to get it done no matter who you are playing against. Josh Harding & Darcy Kuemper both allowing goals on the first scoring chances they faced respectivelly certainly didn't hlep matters but the Wild's "offense" was a much bigger issue. These numbers from your top-six are just terrible.
Their power play was also very bad for most of the game. They had five scoring chances, but that was over 10 minutes of time spent with the man advantage and all five of them came in one power play opportunity. Again, this kind of offensive output isn't going to get it done.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
Koivu's line couldn't do anything against Keith & Hjalmarsson while Toews's line were able to win their matchup against Suter & Brodin. The only matchup that the Wild seemed to have any success against was Brodziak's line against Seabrook & Leddy. Unfortunately, the duo created only two total chances so it was minimal success at best.
|1||CHI||11:12||Sharp - GOAL||26||10||81||2||4||50||9||63||11||6||46||37||5v5|
|2||CHI||18:28||Sharp - GOAL||26||10||81||2||4||50||9||63||11||6||46||35||5v5|