The narrative has been out there since Jason Zucker's OT winner crossed the goal line Sunday afternoon in Minnesota. Players, coaches, media, fans have all been using the same theme to describe and explain the Hawks loss.
"The Wild 'wanted it' more."
No. The Wild executed their plan, and the Blackhawks didn't.
The Hawks held the early edge in play, as well as an early lead, but almost immediately after Johnny Oduya made it 1-0 in the 1st period, the Wild seemed to flip a switch and take over the game.
No, it wasn't the "care" button. It was the "forecheck relentlessly" button. It was the "finish every check" button. It was the "clog up the neutral zone and defend the blue line button". The Blackhawks failed to adjust to Minnesota's game plan, and it cost them the game.
Often times, especially in hockey, fans use violence and collisions to measure the level of desire in a team. If that's truly the case, I have no idea how the Blackhawks won the Presidents' Trophy. They were outhit in nearly every game they played. So how did the Hawks win? Execution.
When the Wild began their forechecking attack, the Hawks either refused or didn't know how to counter. When the Blackhawks would finally gain control of the puck in their own zone, the Wild would retreat to the neutral zone, then to their blue line. The Hawks, as they always seem to when they're struggling, insisted on carrying the puck into the Wild zone instead of chipping the puck in and chasing it down.
When the Blackhawks look bad, or "disinterested", this is what is happening.
It's the only way a lesser skilled team like Minnesota can hang with the Blackhawks. Clog the neutral zone, wait for mistakes, and frustrate.
Sunday's loss had nothing to do with the Hawks compete level. Expect the Hawks to "look more interested" Tuesday night.
OBSERVATIONS AND WHAT HAVE YOU
Patrick Kane is the most talented hockey player in the Western Conference. Yes, when push comes to shove, I prefer Jonathan Toews for his all around game, but Kane's offensive ability puts him on a different level. He's seemingly uncheckable. He escapes contact while maintaining puck control better than any Hawk I've seen since Denis Savard. His 2 assists Sunday brought his playoff total to 5, which is tops amongst playoff performers.
Speaking of Jonathan Toews, the captain needs to get on the score sheet. He's played well, and has been close a number of times, but 0 points in 3 games is simply not good enough. If he continues playing the way he has, the points will come, but maybe it's time for Toews to be a little more selfish when he has the puck.
While Corey Crawford might like to have Zucker's OT winner back, he's the reason the Hawks even made it to the extra frame on Sunday. Crawford has been outstanding. Even if Ray Emery was healthy, I'd have zero hesitation in starting Crawford Tuesday and throughout the playoffs.
Michal Handzus had perhaps his worst game as a Blackhawk in Game 3. He was slaughtered in the faceoff circle, winning a paltry 31% of his draws. In the third period, Joel Quenneville demoted Handzus to the 3rd line. I'd be surprised if he's not the guy on the 2nd line to start Tuesday, but if he has another game like he did Sunday, look for Marcus Kruger or Andrew Shaw to bump up a notch. Faceoff specialists need to win faceoffs.
At what point does Daniel Carcillo get a look? I don't think Bollig, for his limited ice time, has been any worse than he usually is, but Carcillo brings a little more offensively while providing equal amounts of "sandpaper". Might be worth a look. Maybe not. I'm good either way.
Thanks for reading. When the final horn sounds Tuesday night, tune in to 670 AM the Score or 670thescore.com. I'll be on the air with Joe Ostrowski taking your Blackhawks calls.
Filed under: Blackhawks, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sports, Corey Crawford, daniel carcillo, danny mac show, duncan keith, goaltending, hockey, jay zawaski, joel quenneville, johnny oduya, jonathan toews, Marcus Kruger, marian hossa, Michael Handzus, NHL, Patrick Kane, Ray Emery, stanley cup, viktor stalberg, wscr