Game Time: 8:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, CBC (Anglo), RDS2 (Franco), WGN-AM 720
File Under: Easy Listening: Hockey Wilderness
In the two days since the Hawks came out flat, taking far longer to dispatch the Wild than many were expecting or would have liked, the Blues and Penguins have already won the Stanley Cup a couple of times over, so tonight’s Game 2 between the Hawks and Wild is more than likely an exercise in futility. But in spite of all of that, the two teams are going to play anyway.
As was stated by our friends at Hockey Wilderness, the Wild came out on Tuesday night and played exactly the way they wanted to thanks in no small part to a sterling effort from Josh Harding, and still lost in overtime. This isn’t really the time of year to be counting moral victories, so it will be curious to see if the Wild employ the same trapping strategy they did on Tuesday, or if they take a more aggressive approach.
Either way, the Wild are still likely to lean on Ryan Suter just as heavily as they did in Game 1, where he skated an ungodly 41 minutes out of a 75 minute game. Suter was pretty roundly torched for the lackadaisical manner in which he pursued Viktor Stalberg on the game winner, but it’s understandable why he was out of gas. The fact of the matter is the game likely would have ended at the 60 minute mark in the Hawks’ favor were it not for Suter being out there literally every other shift. The two days off should help Suter regain his legs with little issue as he’s been a workhorse his entire career, but as the series progresses, this will be something to monitor.
Minnesota will also need more contributions from their top unit of Koivu, Parise, and Coyle if they’re going to ignite any type of hope of an upset. The normally solid Mikko Suave was 11-for-26 at the dot, which is a recipe for disaster against a possession-centric team as the Hawks are. Matt Cullen and Kyle Brodziak were both above water on draws (12 for 19 and 11 for 20 respectively), so if Mike Yeo may have to rethink pitting Koivu against the Toews line. It will be Yeo’s choice even not having last change, as Joel Quenneville didn’t seem to be the least bit concerned with chasing any matchups in Game 1.
In the Wild’s crease, it will once again be Josh Harding in place of Nicklas Backstrom. Not much more can be asked of Harding than what he provided on Tuesday, but he’ll need to be just as sharp for the Wild to hang in this one. While Harding is an experienced backup, having two days to get into his own head regarding the situation may prove to be a disadvantage for Harding after running on pure adrenaline in a spot start after not getting much NHL work at all during the regular season, which included getting yanked against the Hawks in January. The even greener Darcy Keumper will be backing up Harding in Backstrom’s absence.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, both Dave Bolland and Ray Emery remain out, though neither’s presence was sorely missed on Monday. Otherwise, the lineup will remain the same. The Hawks have talked for the last two days in the media about wanting to put on a show and being too cute at Game 1’s outset, so a far more straightforward attack should be expected tonight. With a late start on a weekend, the UC should be baying for blood, and scoring an early one could send the place into orbit.
The Hawks threw a new look on the power play at all of us on Tuesday, running a true umbrella with Duncan Keith at the point and Toews, Kane, Hossa, and Shaw as its forwards. It resulted in a goal which came off the rush, but in the off chance that the Wild give the Hawks more than two or three, keep an eye on Wild penalty killers very aggressively fronting Duncan Keith. We’ve beaten it to death here, but Keith can be forced into some…shall we say “odd” decisions when QB’ing a power play by his lonesome, as he’s not a natural at it.
There’s not really anything the Hawks need to change to tighten their grip on this series, unless HEART and ENERGY and FIRE in the first period are things that matter, which they don’t. The ability to roll four lines and three pairings and evenly distribute ice time will come more and more to the forefront with every passing game in this series, and with that the countdown from 16 should continue to progress. Let’s go Hawks.