In a game that ended up a lot closer than originally thought, the Chicago Blackhawks coughed up a 3-0 lead and then won a 4-3 decision over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night in Game 1 of the teams’ best-of-seven series.
Now, the Blackhawks look to defend home ice again on Sunday night as the Wild attempt to tie things up before the series shifts to Minnesota later in the week. In order to keep them from doing that, we have three keys to victory for the Blackhawks in Game 2.
If there were common threads among the three goals that the Blackhawks gave up in the second period of Game 2, they were a lack of defensive discipline and an inability to clear the puck from out in front of Corey Crawford. Zach Parise was the primary beneficiary of both of those elements, as he scored a power play goal for Minnesota’s second goal in the second period.
The Blackhawks have got to do a better job of not only preventing guys like Parise from getting open looks in front of the net, but they will also have to clear the puck out from that area. Defensemen too often were caught watching the play in Game 1 or diving below the goal line, and those extra rebound chances won't be missed by a talented team like Minnesota.
Consistent Goaltending from Crawford
In the first round of the postseason, the Blackhawks had a tough time getting consistent goaltending, with Corey Crawford getting pulled in Game 1, replaced as starter in Game 3 and replacing Scott Darling during Game 6 against the Nashville Predators.
Game 1 against the Wild saw a bit of a difference as the Blackhawks’ goaltender looked solid early on, but he looked shaky at times in the second and third period and gave up some really big rebounds as he looked to shake off the rust after not having played a full game in nearly two weeks.
With that game out of his system, Crawford has to get back to his old self for the Blackhawks. Minnesota is going to try avoid a repeat of Game 1, which saw the Hawks jump out to a huge early lead, and that means they’ll come out firing in this one. Crawford will have to be in top form and control his rebounds and movement in the crease in order to withstand that onslaught.
Second Line Must Keep Up Possession Dominance
When Joel Quenneville shook up the Blackhawks’ lines ahead of Game 1 of the series, one of the most intriguing groupings was the second line, with Brad Richards centering Patrick Kane and Bryan Bickell. In Friday’s game, Kane scored a goal and Richards picked up an assist, but more importantly, the three combined for a plus-25 Corsi rating in the game, meaning that they held onto the puck and generated a slew of chances in the process.
If the Blackhawks are going to win in Game 2, they’ll need a repeat performance from this line. The Wild is a deep defensive team, and they’ll try their best to get some favorable matchups against the second line in this game. It’ll be a tough challenge, but there were plenty of positive signs to go around in Game 1 that make it appear the group can take the next game as well.