Earlier today, I was debating whether or not I should watch this game from home or if I should head to the bar. After a long day at work, I thought it was best if I go to my couch. I didn’t want to drink tonight, I had decided. And when Kris Versteeg put in a goal off a great move off the boards that bounced passed Bryz, I thought I might just be able to get away with a game where the temptation wouldn’t be that much. After all, a game where the Hawks score a goal before the opponents even record a shot is a damn good thing. “They’ll put this away early. I’ll get the recap up and have a good night’s sleep”, I hoped.
That plan went to shit about 2 and half minutes into the second period.
For long, long stretches of this game, perhaps just about all of it. The Wild were flat out the better team. You can check out the fancy stats above – they aren’t pretty. I don’t think we’ve seen the Hawks be held without a shot for as long a stretch as we did in the third all year. Or at least maybe it just feels that way since the stakes are so much higher in a game like this. As has been pointed out many times by ourselves and others, the Wild were able to shift the game’s pace almost at will. They came out with a back and forth pace to the first and large parts of the second. Then they were able to clog the neutral zone and make life miserable. They seemed to do this on a shift to shift basis.
And it worked.
It felt almost like playing Tecmo Super Bowl when your dickhead friend was peering over at your controller and seeing the exact play you were calling and doing the same. Everywhere the Hawks went, there were players closing in. Every pass had a stick or skate to knock it away. It didn’t hurt the Wild that the passes from the Hawks were generally off though.
On the back of Corey Crawford, the Hawks took everything the Wild threw at them and found a way to come out on top. There’s plenty more to say about this. Lets put it in the bullets.
- If you happen to know anyone at all who still lives by the “Hawks can’t win with Crawford” mentality, I urge you to do everything you can to purge that person from your life. They aren’t worth it. They’re the simpleton believing the sun goes around the earth or the guy thinking it’s OK to wear sweatpants to a bar. Give up on them. They’re too far gone.
The Hawks do not win this game or possibly this series without Crawford’s play. Of course, he had a few bad goals. He may have even had more than Bryzgalov (and who could have seen that coming by the way?). He may never rise to the “elite” level (whatever that is) but he’s put together an impressive performance thus far.
- The Hawks looked eager to match the Wild’s forecheck early on. Toews and Sharp in particular were rabid dogs behind the Wild net during their first few shifts. I didn’t notice it as much later on in the game, probably because for most of it the Wild were stealing the Hawks’ lunch money.
- Sheldon Brookbank didn’t have the best of games but he was far from the worst. His most memorable shift of the night has to be his heart attack inducing moment where he was pressured behind the net and was given no options at all. I couldn’t tell if the puck was knocked away or he made an ill advised pass. He was able to redeem himself (or at least keep himself out of Q’s doghouse) by blocking an almost certain goal.
I think he just fell down behind the net on his shift just prior to this too.
- With the game on the line – you cannot be happy with how the Hawks came out in the third. I realize the Wild were a force on home ice and they had all the advantages but the Hawks had nothing to show for the game other than Corey freaking the fuck out. It wasn’t until nearly 16 minutes in that I noticed a decent shift.
Somehow, they were able to carry that decent shift through the end of the third and into overtime where things were far more even. Still, a few good bounces and maybe one less post and this series is going to game 7. You could argue the Hawks were simply playing conservative and biding their time, you could argue the Wild ran out of gas playing with such intensity and coming up short. Or you could argue the Hawks got incredibly, insanely lucky. Either way. It’s 8 more wins needed.
- Speaking of luck, I’ve already seen lots being written and said about the lucky bounce the Hawks got on Kaner’s winner. It’s mostly bullshit. Yes, there was a fortunate bounce. The easy way to look at it is that it went right to Kane’s tape and he put home the winner. That seems to be the Wild’s reaction and a lot of the commentators as well.
Watching again, that play does not happen if Regin isn’t there going hard at the net. When the puck went oddly off the boards, he was there going hard at the net. It caused Suter to be taken out of the play as they tied each others sticks up and skated past it. If someone else on the ice (someone not as fast..ahem), Suter may get there first and easily take it behind the net. Kane also gets inside on Matt Cooke because he had stopped skating. I’m sure many of us couldn’t be happier that Cooke had such a great view. That’s a great play all around. And that’s before mentioning Kane’s quick move to the outside and a backhanded roofer that only a handful of players could make.. if that many. Phenomenal end after a relatively disappointing game.
- This Wild team is a night a day difference from the boring trapping team we have been so used to over the years. They can still play that way if needed but they showed they have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the Hawks and Avs, two of the faster teams in the league. Time will tell if they simply caught lightning in a bottle this postseason or if this is what we’ll be seeing for years to come. If so, for the love of god, will someone please cover Haula.