Wild 4, Blackhawks 1

“It’s the system and it really, really works.” 

That’s a direct quote from Versus’ post-game anchor Bill Patrick.  I don’t know what it is about teams from Minnesota, but even when they play poorly, they still get heaps of praise because of the way they’re known for playing.  Somehow, I highly doubt Wild Head Coach Jacques Lemaire decided with a 3-0 lead, he would let the Blackhawks dictate the tempo for the rest of the game, spend the rest of the game in his own zone, and let goalie Niklas Backstrom bail the team out at the end. 

Yes, the Wild are known for playing a solid neutral zone trap.  It’s designed to keep pressure outside of the defensive end, limit opponents shots on net, and reduce the game to an endless chain of dump and chases.  However, after the ‘Hawks fell behind 3-0 six minutes into the second, the game was spent in the Wild’s zone about 70% of the time.  A team playing the neutral zone trap correctly doesn’t get outshot 30-13 the last two periods.  They don’t hang on for a dear life with 30 minutes left.  They suck the life out of the opposition by forcing turnovers and taking the home crowd out of the game.  I don’t think Lemaire will be showing video of this game next time he needs a job to show how effective his neutral zone trap is.

After spotting the Wild three goals, the ‘Hawks tried to scratch and claw their way back into the game.  Martin Havlat buried a point blank shot from about 15 feet out to make it 3-1 with exactly 10 minutes left.  Because of that, some lucky bastard is walking home with a million bucks tonight.  Unreal. 

The ‘Hawks had plenty of chances afterwards to close the gap.  Patrick Kane was robbed by Backstrom on a rebound.  Jonathon Toews had a beautiful end to end rush only to be denied.  Andrew Ladd was a force on nearly every shift.  With three and a half minutes left in the game, Dave Bolland drew a penalty and Q pulled Khabibulin to get the 6-on-4 advantage.  Though the puck stayed in Minnesota’s end for most of the kill, the ‘Hawks were incredibly sloppy on their cross ice passes missing by a considerable amount.  Don’t tell that to the Versus’ crew though; they spent the first three minutes raving about the Wild’s ability to get their sticks in the passing lane.  Nevermind Cam Barker put it right on their tape, it’s the system!!!  It wasn’t until Cal Clutterbuck (soaring up the charts of people I’d like to cross-check in the mouth) potted an empty netter with 35 seconds left that the outcome was no longer in doubt.  

If the ‘Hawks started off the game the way they finished, they wouldn’t be looking at their 3rd home loss in regulation.  Everything evens out in the end and after getting lucky to squeeze 3 points out of this weekend’s back-to-back, maybe this was just the hockey gods settling the score.  An effort like the final 30 minutes will put the Blues away early on Wednesday and send the ‘Hawks into the All-Star break with an even 60 points.

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4 Responses to Wild 4, Blackhawks 1

  1. CT says:

    The Hawks faceoff issues were a problem too. The Wild were icing the puck all over the place, and the Hawks were not winning the ensuing draws.

  2. Fork says:

    Fuck the Trap.

    That is all.

  3. Chris Block says:

    It’s lazy journalism that’s all. For the players afterwards it’s the easiest excuse and quickest way out the door.

    How Backstrom isn’t one of the game’s three stars is beyond me? VERSUS picked those last night so they’re to blame.

    What the Wild are terrific at is limiting second-chance opportunities, something the Hawks aren’t particularly great at anyways. One and done in the offensive zone. In-part how they protected the lead throughout the Hawks barrage in the final forty minutes. Still, Backstrom’s sprawling stick-save on Kane in the second saved the game probably.

    And why do the Hawks insist on trying fancy cross-ice set-up chances against teams like the Wild who position four strong in the middle of their zone? Movement, getting one guy to the net with another in the vacinity is the way to go.

    Face-offs were pretty much even until the final eight minutes of the game (when it really counted) where the Hawks lost all seven draws. Toews was 3-13 last night and 0-5 vs. Mikko Koivu. I believe its something Bolland will be much better at when he puts more weight on this off season but part of the reason Fraser’s on this team (the other being salary) is because Adam Burish is incompetent in the face-off circle and Fraser can’t get the better of the other team’s third and fourth centers right now.

  4. blackhawkbob says:

    Yeah, I think the difference last night was Minnesota’s willingness to play with five or six goaltenders, leaving defenders very, very low and limiting the ‘Hawk second chances. I think it’s the sign of a team that doesn’t feel it can do anything else well.

    It makes Wednesday’s game all the more important. It should be a good one.

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