Minnesota Wild can’t get on the board against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3. Patrick Kane’s 1st period power play goal holds up as Chicago takes a 3 games to none lead in the 2nd round series.
The Wild came out flying in the 1st period getting a couple good scoring chances but Chicago withstood the opening surge and only helped build their confident play. The Wild would get the 1st power play of the game but Chicago’s renewed confidence on defense has rubbed off on their penalty kill too. The Wild, who had their power play going, now have trouble getting in the zone and when they do, they can’t even get a shot on goal.
The Blackhawks would also get a power play in the 1st period and would get a fortuitous bounce to help them score their 1st goal of the game. Johnathan Toews makes a backhand pass from just inside his own zone to Patrick Sharp coming up the right boards in the neutral zone. Sharp tries to make a pass to Andrew Shaw coming up the middle of the ice but the puck is on edge so it’s a slow, wobbly pass and Matt Cooke gets a piece of it but it deflects up the middle. Matt Dumba, playing the right defense position, moves toward the puck and Shaw, leaving Patrick Kane alone coming up the left side. Shaw hears Kane yelling for the puck so he chops at it to get it over to Kane. Patrick Kane gets the pass and beats Devan Dubnyk through the five-hole to score the 1st goal of the game.
Matt Dumba has to know that’s Patrick Kane coming up the left side and can’t leave an opening for the puck to get over there. He either has to make a better play on the deflected puck. Something different than the sweeping poke check that is a one and done If it doesn’t work, like it didn’t. He also should know he has Marco Scandella on his left, who can make a play on that puck. I don’t necessarily blame Dumba for going after that puck. I just think he could’ve played it better and not given so much of a chance for the puck to get to the most dangerous player on the rink in this series.
The Minnesota Wild would get plenty of chances to tie the game, but Corey Crawford and the Chicago Blackhawks would stop every one of them and put the Wild on the brink of elimination with a 3 games to none lead in the series.
This series has turned into a tale of two teams that changed after the 2nd period of Game 1. That’s the last time the Minnesota Wild looked like a hungry team that refused to be stopped and the last time the Chicago Blackhawks team looked like a team with some defensive holes.
Since that Game 1 2nd period, the Minnesota Wild has played a passive game, waiting for something to happen, while the Blackhawks have played an active game, aggressively making something happen. This change has gotten in the heads of both teams. The Blackhawks confidence is growing. The Wild’s confidence is dwindling.
What happens to a player’s and/or a team’s game when confidence goes up or down? A player struggling with confidence waits for that perfect goal, the easy tap-in, the tic-tac-toe beautiful play that rarely happens. They don’t shoot the puck quickly. They hold the puck or try to make a move to get a closer look and the majority of the time, a shot never occurs. The play is broken up or the goalie is given plenty of time to cut the angle down and make the save.
A player playing with confidence shoots the puck quickly knowing that’s the best way to score. A quick shot means the goalie doesn’t have time to square up and get ready for the shot and even if the goalie makes the save, there’s a high probability a rebound will happen as a result of that quick shot and the confident team has a player ready to pounce on that rebound when it happens.
One of the reasons I picked the Wild to win in six games was their poise and confidence. It was questioned in Game 4 of the 1st round against St. Louis. After that game, the Wild played games 5 and 6 with the belief they would win the game. Obviously, if you’ve watched Game 2 and Game 3 against Chicago, that belief and that confidence is barely there. It’s been replaced by frustration and doubt. They are playing like a team that doesn’t know how to play anymore or how to figure out what to do against the Blackhawks.
The reason I picked the Blackhawks to lose the series is because they didn’t seem to be a good defensive team in their series against the Nashville Predators. They were allowing comebacks and a lot of goals and they had to use both goalies out of necessity, not by choice. A team not playing great defensively and having issues between the pipes usually has a difficult time winning in the playoffs.
I described the goal as being a fortuitous bounce for the Blackhawks. Am I saying they are getting more bounces than the Wild? Yes and no. As a team, you can’t blame or credit good or bad bounces as the reason why you are winning or losing. The Wild are all too familiar with bad bounces against the Blackhawks in the playoffs. Last season came to an end on a bounce off a stanchion behind the net that went right to Patrick Kane. Bang! Season Over! Ouch!
We’ll see what the Minnesota Wild can do in Game 4 on Thursday night at 8:30pm. Will a bounce end the series again? Will the Wild get back to their game and actually get a lead in a game for the first time in the 2nd round and extend the series to a 5th game?
Don’t give up on the Minnesota Wild! They aren’t giving up so neither should you!
THANKS for reading!!!