Game Time: 8:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CNBC, TSN (Anglo), RDS2 (Franco)/WGN720
Terms of Psychic Warfare: Hockey Wilderness
After two disappointing games, the series now shifts back to the UC as the Hawks attempt to take back the series lead. I don’t know how many times we’ve said it, or how many times you’ve heard it, but we all know the phrase “It’s not a series until the home-team loses”. That hardly feels like the case though when the first two games were decided by breakout third periods for the Hawks who very easily could have lost either game. On the trip to MN, the Hawks clearly looked like the slower and more beatable team. They simply weren’t close contests, even in Game 4 when at least the score wasn’t too off.
It’s hard to make a case that the sky is falling for the Hawks. On paper, they’re clearly the better team. By just about any way of looking at it, they shouldn’t have a problem with this Wild, even as improved as they are from last year. But that’s hardly the case among the Hawks fans right now. They just got punched in the face pretty squarely in the last two games and it’s hard to not think the Wild may come through as the underdogs. That can easily swing the other way today though. One good period is all it really takes for this Hawks team to pull away from the Wild. If we could not wait til the third, that’d be great.
We were treated a few games ago to an entire 60 minutes without Brandon Bollig and it looks like we’re that way once again as the player Q loves to infuriate us with has been sent to the press box. Sadly not because the Hawks have come to their senses on his skills (or lack thereof) but instead because the league has forced him to take a seat due to his unnecessary and illegal hit on Ballard during Friday’s game. We’ll see Bollig in his suit for the next two games. In his place, Q has plenty of options. Reports are that the fourth line will now have Regin skating with Smith and Nordstrom. It’s a marked improvement but still won’t make or break the game. Or at least it shouldn’t. Regin is vastly better skater than Bollig. If they can use that speed to actually make the fourth line move, it’ll help the rest of the Hawks game in its entirety.
In other “wait… really?” news, Kris Versteeg goes from healthy scratch on Friday to playing on Toews’ wing on the first line tonight. I don’t understand it any better than I understand women but expect something big out of Versteeg early or expect Q to hit the shuffle button early on.
For the Wild, the only change is that Ballard will sit out the game after Bollig’s hit. Losing Ballard isn’t the worst thing for the Wild but is disappointing since Ballard had just returned to the lineup after suffering other injuries throughout the year.
The Wild will instead be focusing on Parise and Granlund as the top line was steamrolling the Hawks (specifically Hammer and Oduya). The Swedes are generally taking the tough assignments so it’s surprising to see them get dominated so thoroughly. Neither of the Wild forwards are all that large so it’s shocking to see them struggle. The obvious option would be to put them up against Marlboro 72. With the ability to dictate who plays who more, I would expect Q to get super matchy uppy tonight. If things aren’t going his way, we’ll see all sorts of combinations. I specifically wouldn’t be shocked to see the return of Daydream Nation if the score is close in the second.
If the Hawks play their best game, I don’t think the Wild have a chance. They can trap, they can hit and they can skate but the Hawks seen everything the Wild can throw at them and they’ve seen it done by better teams. The Hawks haven’t shown their biggest gun in this battle yet and one has to think it’ll be coming today as they really can’t be wanting to go back to the X with the Wild able to clinch it. You can’t be certain about which game the Wild are going to throw at you to start this game but either way the Hawks will have to adjust to it quickly to survive.
Oh and finally – a very happy Mother’s Day to all mom’s reading this site and of course, mine in particular. Hope all of you are having a wonderful day.
Let’s Go Hawks