Over the years, the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs have been littered with upsets. There have been many instances, where the higher seeded team have been shocked by their “lesser” opponent. This was not one of those instances.
The heavily favoured Chicago Blackhawks made quick work of the underdog Minnesota Wild, 5-1 in the fifth game of the series, and taking the series 4-1. In essence, the Wild were fortunate to win one game, as the Blackhawks simply overpowered Minnesota.
The Wild did make an effort to extend the series early on, as they dominated play in the first period. But Corey Crawford was terrific between the pipes for Chicago as he thwarted every scoring opportunity, stopping all 10 shots in the opening frame. While Minnesota carried the play, it was the Blackhawks that opened the scoring as Marian Hossa snapped home his second of the playoffs off a setup from Jonathan Toews. It was Toews first point of the series which goes to show how much depth the Blackhawks have. If their captain and best player recorded his first point in the fifth game while his team is leading 3-1 in the series, that team is pretty darn good.
When Marcus Kruger’s wraparound found the net at the 3:19 mark of the second period, the air was coming out of the Wild’s balloon. Hossa added his second of the night three minutes later to put the Hawks firmly in control. That goal chased Josh Harding out of the Wild net, bringing in Darcy Kuemper to mop up. The Wild did manage to get one past Crawford, as Torrey Mitchell slapped home his first of the series. But just 35 seconds later, Andrew Shaw restored the Hawks three goal lead to put this game to bed.
Patrick Sharp finished off the scoring during a 5-on-3 power play as he flipped home a loose puck over the sprawled Kuemper to mercifully finish off the Wild.
This series was simply about depth. The Hawks are deeper than the Wild, and it showed. Chicago can roll out all four lines and get contributions from every one of them. The Wild are so reliant on Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu for their offense and when they don’t score, the Wild don’t win. Parise only had one goal all series while Koivu was held off the scoresheet.
The Blackhawks will now get some much-needed rest before the second round begins. This wasn’t a physical series so the Hawks could be at a big advantage in the long run. The Kings-Blues series has been a vicious battle filled with bruises and blood. The Wings-Ducks series has been filled with long plane rides to the respective cities. The Sharks are the only team that is enjoying rest right now after their sweep of Vancouver. The Hawks knew they had to finish off the Wild as quickly as possible, so they can get ready for the second round.
For those wondering the winner of the Detroit-Anaheim series will determine Chicago’s opponent in the next round. If Anaheim wins, the Blackhawks will face San Jose. If Detroit wins, then it will be those Wings against the Blackhawks.
This one is a tough call but I’m giving it to Corey Crawford who was excellent in the Hawks net. While Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith should also receive plaudits for their efforts, Crawford deserves praise for making timely saves throughout the first round. The Montreal native posted a 1.32 goals against average while registering a .950 save percentage. If a goalie posts those types of numbers, that team will win the series 100% of the time.
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