Since Prince’s untimely death, there hasn’t been a redeeming quality to speak of regarding Minnesota. And for the first 50 minutes tonight, all was as it has ever been since then. But a flutter puck and bad-angle goal later, the Hawks were on the brink of being one point back for the second wild card spot. They managed a point from it all, and they were fortunate to get even that. Let’s clean it up.
– Bruce Boudreau has made a career out of winning games that his opponents can’t be bothered to play during the doldrums of the season. Tonight’s first 50 minutes was a master class in that style. The thing is, the Hawks don’t have the luxury of falling prey to a team that’s playing like it’s the last week in April with a spot on the line. But there they were, dragging ass and just hoping that Crawford would pull them out of the sling, which he almost did. It’s hard to find an excuse for it.
Through the first two periods in fact, just two Blackhawks had CF%s that weren’t in the negatives: Gustafsson and Murphy. The Wild kept the Hawks on the perimeter as is their wont, and the Hawks 10,000-pass setups were even more useless than they usually were.
– If the Hawks are going to rat fuck their way into the playoffs—and I still think they will—it’s going to take the kind of small miracles we saw from Boqvist and Maatta. Adam Boqvist was having a putrid game until his goal. He and Keith got clobbered in possession, but more worrying was how tentative Boqvist looked on the power play again. After the Koivu trip on Kane, Boqvist looked like he was going to charge through the neutral zone ass ablaze, only to just stop along the far boards in the neutral zone and nearly turn it over. When the Hawks finally got the puck in, Boqvist did end up turning it over anyway.
Boqvist occasionally flashes a charge only to curl back, and you have to imagine it’s by design. But we’ve seen what happens when he’s tentative, and it’s not pretty. When he just says “fuck it,” like he did on his wrist-shot goal, good things tend to happen. His wrister was more of a floater than a snapper, but he’s got a real weapon with it regardless.
– Olli Maatta was also having a terrible, terrible game prior to his goal, which is one of the more absurd goals we’ve seen this year. He was on the far boards and managed to pot the shot far side. Sometimes it doesn’t need to make sense.
– Alex DeBrincat needs a fucking hug. He had two or three quality chances snuffed or overshot, and you can see it’s really taking a toll on him. On his near breakaway off the Donato turnover in the first, Top Cat had a couple of steps on Donato. But as the play developed, it looked like DeBrincat was skating through sand. Donato managed to catch up and bother DeBrincat while he shot, ruining the chance. Him coming around in these last two months is going to be crucial to any playoff hopes the Hawks will have.
– Kirby Dach makes me forget about Bowan Byram sometimes. He was a beacon light in the third period, and nearly scored a highlight-reel goal after completely breaking Jonas Brodin’s ankles in the near circle. There’s such fluidity to his skating and puck handling. Plus, he’s now on a four-game scoring streak (1 G, 4 A) after going 12 games without. He’s going to be special; it’s just a question of whether it’ll be here when it all comes together and whether it will matter when it does.
– Connor Murphy was outstanding tonight. He broke up a Foligno breakaway halfway through the first and should have had a primary assist late in the second, if not for Brandon Saad passing up a gaping net to pass to a heavily covered Patrick Kane in the crease.
– Erik Gustafsson had a stereotypical Erik Gustafsson game. His fancy stats were nice (65+ CF%, 75+ xGF%), he tallied an assist, and then he turned the puck over in OT, leading to the loss. He hasn’t been an open sore lately, but we also had 10 days off, so that’s probably factoring into the memory of him.
You’ll take the one point because they really didn’t deserve any. A win tomorrow could put them within one point of the second wild card spot. What a world.
Beer du Jour: Michter’s Small Batch
Line of the Night: You best believe this was a Mute Lounge Game.