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Dose of Thunder – Wild 3, Hawks 2 (OT) – Hawks Lead Series 2-1

With the series now shifting setting to the Twin Cities, the Wild were essentially facing a must-win situation, and decided to change things up a bit from their neutral zone bomb shelter strategy that yielded no results on West Madison.

Even with the Hawks drawing the first marker on a beautiful feed from Patrick Kane to Johnny Oduya right after a Hawks kill, the Wild pressed on. Coach Mike Yeo made no secret about wanting to ratchet up the physicality and make life unpleasant for Hawk defenders, and did just that, sending wave of cannonballing forwards into the Hawk zone.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard would even things up with a backhand after catching a feed from Cal Clutterbuck off a Crawford rebound that Keith and Hjalmarsson were just kind of watching and Marian Hossa had lost his check. The score would remain the same throughout the second period with the Wild still clearly holding an edge in play until Zach Parise would give the Wild a lead early in the third, once again on his backhand over Crawford’s glove. From there the Wild would retreat hoping to ride out regulation, but some line juggling by Quenneville and Minny once again giving Kane enough time to set up shop to find Duncan Keith would get the game to OT. A blown coverage by Johnny Oduya behind the goal line would let a prone-on-the-ice Matt Cullen find Jason Zucker, who found the short side corner on Crawford, and now Sam gets to write a Game 5 program.

Observations

  • Let’s get this out of the way right now, Corey Crawford was the reason this game even got to overtime. He was excellent all afternoon, and the winner wasn’t on him. There was quite a bit of miscommunication between Oduya and Rozsival behind the Hawk net which let to a bumbling of the puck, after Crawford thought it was out of harm’s way. Even after that, it took a pass from Matt Cullen while on his belly and a perfectly placed short side shot from Zucker to beat Crawford.
  • Furthermore, the other two goals from the Wild were also corner-picked backhand shots, which any goalie agree on being the hardest shots to track. And it even still took Clusterfuck making a tremendous play from being on his belly as well.
  • However, all three goals were plays that could have been erased had the Hawk forwards stayed with their checks (Hossa on the first, Toews on the second, Stalberg on the third) and not trying to cheat on transitioning the other way.
  • Mikko Koivu flipped the script and went 15-for-20 on draws, and the Wild as a team went 40-and-32 for the game. It was pointed out during the broadcast that the home team always has an advantage in being able to cheat a little bit on coming to a full stop with being able to put their stick down second. This was key to keeping the Hawks’ attack by and large at bay. Possession can’t be controlled if they’re chasing right off the draw.
  • Michal Handzus was 5-for-16 at the dot, and his dung-filled breezers seemed to make a return for the afternoon as he looked more than a step slow, punctuated by Patrick Kane being able to have the puck long enough twice away from Zus to set up scores. If Zus can’t win a draw on the road, then he’s going to get exposed just as he did today.
  • Ryan Suter once again played over half the game, and he and partner Jonas Brodin were a game-worst -11 and -10 respectively in chances. Even though the Wild won today, this is not a recipe for long-term success, especially as these minutes add up.
  • Pretty much every Hawk blueliner had a moment or two he’d like to have back from Game 3. Tighten it up, and someone, please, wake Brent Seabrook the fuck up.
  • Jonathan Toews has yet to register a point in this series. It is now offically “a thing”. Any time you’re ready, Cap’n.
  • The Wild were never just going to roll over and die at any point in the series, though cashing in in OT would have been tremendous dick punch for what would remain of the series. They’ve got life and they know what works now, but it still only barely worked. It took three perfectly placed shots and two desperation plays from down players and extra time to do it. Better execution and tighter defensive zone coverage should be give the Hawk transition game more space behind the deep Wild forecheckers in transition if this is how they’re going to continue things from here on out. And Corey Crawford is fine.

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