Faceoff: 8:30pm Central
TV/Radio: CSN, CBC, NBCSN/WGN 720
Show Me One Night: Hockey Wilderness
Unlike last year, the Blackhawks now find themselves in an elimination game where they are the ones capable of sending a team off to their summer homes earlier than they’d hope. It’ll also be the first chance they’ve had at advancing past the opening round of the post season since the year they’ve brought home a bunch of hardware and a party that lasted all summer long.
The 3-0 shutout in last Tuesday’s game wasn’t exactly a dynamic effort but it still showed that the Hawks are capable of taking home a victory without really putting it all out on the table just yet. The Wild have started each of the games on a very strong note but the Hawks have been able to sit out the storm and even if they get behind, find a way to get back into it, even if that did take til just about the very end of regulation in Game 3.
Tonight’s game figures to be no different. With their season on the line, the Wild will empty every chamber they’ve got (if they haven’t already). They’ve seen what works (punishing Hawks defenders below the Hawks net) but that hasn’t exactly been a secret on the level of the 11 herbs and spices used by the Colonel, has it? That’s been the game plan on the Hawks since they first started to emerge as a competent team again years back. It’s no secret either what the Hawks will have to do to counteract it. Keep moving, find the quick pass, and most importantly, don’t panic. The Hawks will certainly face tougher and bigger teams than the Wild in the later rounds so this ought to be considered a warm up for what’s sure to come.
For the Wild, it appears Josh Harding was first off the ice in the morning skate and will be getting the start in the net. From what I’ve picked up on the interwebs, he didn’t exactly look 100% in the skate this morning but when your only other option is Kuemper than you have to deal with the cards your dealt. Backstrom is still a no-go, so the Wild are in quite a tight spot. It looked as if Harding injured a leg or groin so the Hawks will look to get him moving side to side to find any vulnerable areas.
And for our Blackhawks, we’re grateful that Bolland is always good for unintentionally hilarious quote, if nothing else. Asked today how he’s progressing he responded “I don’t know about the percentage but I’m halfway there”. Something tells me if you ever get to play head’s up poker against the rat, you’re going to come out a richer person.
Bolland would be a welcome addition because even though he’s been better than I would have expected (at least in the regular season), Handzus has been a bit of a liability. He’s getting hammered while taking a faceoff and doesn’t have the speed to keep up with second line players. The Wild are a good faceoff team (3rd in the regular season) but the Sharks were second and seem to be the likely opponent for the next round. We know Bolland’s limitations taking faceoffs but at least plays a game more suited to the role than Zus.
We’re still waiting for the Hawks top line to take over a game and it’s only a matter of time before it happens. (…right?) Based on everything I’ve read from Wild fans/writers, it seems they’re operating as if a first-round exit is a foregone conclusion. The Hawks can’t let that be their thoughts though as no one wants to go home early. A big key to the game will be getting control of themselves and staying out of the box. The Wild power play closest resembles the dirt surrounding the Port-o-Johns at a summer festival but the Hawks have given them far too many chances to turn it around. Keep out of the box, if only to get themselves ready for future rounds with power plays that will make them pay.
Oh, and I bet Carcillo plays, for no good reason other than to make us question Q’s grasp on reality.
Let’s Go Hawks