Seven straight Game 3 losses on the road, huh? Maybe the Hawks pulled this one out just because they were sick of that stat. Or maybe they pulled it out because they basically gave the Wild the Million Dollar Dream for the first 40 minutes, and then Crawford proved why he’s still the best goalie in this series for the 3rd (although he didn’t have to make that many highlight reel saves). Or maybe because Hjalmarsson. Oduya, Keith, and Seabrook were at or near their best. Or maybe all of the above. Still, this series kind of feels like the Hawks listened to all the chatter about how the Wild really meant business this time, and said, “Oh? Watch this.” And now they’ve got Minnesota’s nuts in a vice.
This one will go down in the end as a goalie win, but you don’t get through a deep run in the spring without a couple of those. The encouraging thing is that Crawford was aggressive, not getting too deep in his net and standing tall among the scrambles that took place in the 2nd and 3rd. He could have gotten caught a couple times early when he again dropped down too early and lost his net, but as the game went on that happened less and less, the prime examples being coming out to meet Granlund on his breakaway and stopping the Finn again late in the 3rd on a high rising shot. Also helped that Pominville once again lost his radar on where the net it. Most of all, Crow’s rebound control was superb, and that’s where the Wild really profit. Not so tonight.
Let’s go through the rest:
The Two Obs
-We’d been anticipating all year when Q would simple lean on his top four, and on the road in the second round seems like as good of a time as any. Timonen didn’t crack six minutes, Rozsival only had 16, and the other four all over 20. You figure if the Hawks can finish this off Thursday and get a rest, that’s only going to get deeper as they go on. Which is fine, it’s what we’d been planning for, especially when they’re all playing this well.
-It seemed like when the Wild really pressed and started activating their D, they ran into the problem of the D they play most not really being a fire starter. Ryan Suter does a lot of things, but generate chances generally isn’t one of them. The Wild have two of those, maybe, in Spurgeon and Scandella but they play together. Suter gets into the right spots and certainly can get the Wild into the offensive zone, but do you remember him making a killer pass or shot? Don’t get me wrong, Suter is a wonderful player, there’s just a limit to what he does. In the same situation, Keith (who’s also offensively limited in some ways) would be coming down low at every chance and opening himself up for passes and shots.
-The Hawks third line was their best tonight, a combined +17 in Corsi. While not the biggest, Sharp’s and Vermette’s activity level along the boards keep them where they need to be, and Teuvo’s quick hands come in hand there as well. Consider at this time last year the Hawks were sporting Handzus, Bollig, and Versteeg and now that’s Teuvo, Vermette, and Desjardins.
-Speaking of Desjardins, the 4th line was probably the next best line, and while they ate it a bit possession-wise they saw the Wild’s top line the most and when you get that matchup you’re only asking them to not let Granlund and Parise go off the leash. They certainly did that.
-In fact, I don’t remember Parise doing much of anything tonight.
-While Kane will take the plaudits for getting the goal, at evens this was the second straight game the 2nd line was buried in their own zone too much of the night. We would care less if Richards’s shot in the 3rd found twine instead of metal, but it’s something to watch going forward.
-The Wild promoted Jason Zucker to the 2nd line, and he had the one shift in the 3rd where he got outside Seabrook and created a couple chances, but then that was it. The Hawks rarely let any of the Wild wingers gain the line without a challenge, forcing them to chip and chase. That was ok because the Hawks’ breakouts were so clean, for the most part.
That is about it for this one. The Hawks are most where you’d like to be at this point. It ain’t over and all that, but let’s say The Fat Lady has been given her “places” cue.