Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: NBCSN, CBC (Anglo), TVA (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Raspberry Beret: Hockey Wilderness
With the series now shifting back to the Twin Cities for games 3 and 4, the expectation is that the momentum will naturally shift back to the Wild, given the Hawks’ abysmal record in game 3’s on the road under Joel Quenneville. The only victory in 10 tries has been Game 3 in 2010 in Vancouver, but that doesn’t mean that anything is a foregone conclusion tonight.
For the Wild, the biggest advantage now comes with getting able to dictate the matchups, specifically being able to get Granlund and Parise away from Jonathan Toews, and instead making him have to look across at Mikko Koivu all night long tonight and Wednesday. Koivu will do so without Chris Stewart on his wing, who is day to day after his nasty spill into the end boards on Sunday. In his place will be Ryan Carter, who last saw game action in the regular season finale nearly a month ago. Stewart’s absence removes one of the Wild’s more physical and active forecheckers from the lineup, however Carter’s game isn’t that much different, he’s just far less accomplished.
To this point in the post season having played 5 road games and 3 home games, getting the Parise line hasn’t materialized in a lot of difference for Mike Yeo. Parise is himself sporting a 46.07% share at home with two goals (both coming in Game 6) and an assist, while getting a 45.19% share on the road and only a single helper. However, any line on the Blues that Yeo could have picked for them is likely nowhere near as unidirectional as the Richards and Kane line, who will likely be tried to made to defend. However the real key for Minnesota turning things around will again be the second pairing of Scandella and Spurgeon. If they’re able to drive play rather than being inundated with shots against the Wild stand a far better chance at getting back into the series. And at home, they’re likely to get the benefit of as many offensive zone starts as possible.
In net, Devan Dubnyk is now dealing with his first set of back to back regulation losses since being acquired by Minnesota. It’s very clear the Hawks are targeting the mid-to-upper region of the goaltender, as tall goalies can leave gaps under their arms when dropping to a butterfly, and Dubnyk is far more inclined to let a puck hit him in the chest than attempt to snag it with his glove hand. But the idea for Yeo and Minnesota is now for him to not have to do as much with the benefit of picking the matchups.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, as assumed, there are no lineup changes forthcoming tonight, even though Kris Versteeg did make the trip, reminding everyone that Teuvo is one defensive zone boner away from heading to the pressbox once again. While Sunday was probably the Hawks’ most complete game so far in the playoffs, there are things that are going to need to be tightened up now heading on the road.
The Kane, Richards, and Bickell line was the only unit underwater on Sunday, and it happened primarily facing the fourth Wild line of Brodziak and Fontaine. They’re obviously going to face a far sterner test tonight and made to play plenty of defense if Yeo can get Parise, Granlund, and Pominville out against them. If they get hemmed in, look for Q to try to start switching out of the matchup quickly after draws, which always leads to fun at the Hawks’ bench in the second period with a league-29th 13 bench minors in the regular season.
Also of concern is the Hawks’ still in place defenseman configuration of having a babysitter for their two elderstatesmen. Both Rozsival and Timonen are going to have their sides and their corners pressed consistently, and it will be incumbent upon their partners (particularly Keith with Rozsival) to not over-pursue to give their partner help. Having forwards diligently back pressure will also help to mitigate things, but if the game is close Quenneville cannot be hesitant to pull the trigger on completely hiding those two in favor of the traditional top-four configuration.
After coming out asses ablaze on Friday and then looking to trap on Sunday, now on home ice it stands to reason that the former will be the initial tactic used by Yeo to help get his crowd into it, and to see just how the Hawks are going to handle that kind of blitzing. Corey Crawford will need to be sharp early, as that policy generally coincides with an “everything on net” mantra as well. Not taking flat footed penalties and giving the Wild power play yet another look at the struggling Hawks’ kill is also an absolute must. Utilize the space behind the forecheckers, because the Wild defensemen have shown they’re not going to press even if they’re not outright conceding their own blue line.
Perhaps most important is Jonathan Toews being able to maintain his high level of play even while being shadowed by Koivu, who has given him fits in the past. In games 1 and 2 the Hawks’ top end was able to do what it wanted with the matchups it wanted, now they’re going to have to rise to the occasion. If they do, a vise grip on the series is there for the taking, 1-and-9 record in road Game 3’s be damned. Let’s go Hawks.