In the last chapter of Chicago Blackhawks Quarterfinal Notes, the team prepared to face the Minnesota Wild after their sloppy overtime loss and was determined to regroup. They did so with a vengeance and added to the Wild’s goaltender problems.
The Blackhawks beat the Wild 3-0 for Corey Crawford’s second playoff shutout, and it was due in part to a stepped-up defensive effort. Crawford’s 25 saves for the night again showed why he and Ray Emery deserved the Jennings Trophy as the league’s best goaltending duo. That improved defense also kept a lot of shots from even getting to Crawford.
It was also another night full of goalie drama for the Wild after Jonathan Toews’ play late in the first period resulted in Josh Harding’s departure from the game after the first intermission. In his place was Darcy Kuemper, but they dressed a seemingly not-ready Niklas Backstrom as his backup. This is just another round on the goalie carousel for them.
Tonight’s game is important for the Blackhawks. A win can give them the series and get them to the semifinals. A loss takes the game back to St. Paul. They’ll be facing a very desperate team that will throw everything at them in their attempt to stave off a heartbreaking series loss. They need to keep in mind how they played in Game Four and do that again. It was effective enough to shut out the Wild, and it could do that again.
On the injury front, Harding will be starting in net for the Wild even though he had a lower-body injury. That could end very badly if he’s not fully ready to play because aside from Kuemper, they have a still-injured Backstrom as their only alternative. For the Blackhawks, Emery and Dave Bolland are still scratched, though coach Joel Quenneville hinted that they could be ready for the next round. When asked how close he was to returning, Bolland replied “I don’t know about a percentage but I’m halfway there.”
Tonight’s game begs the question “Should the Wild stay or go?” When the sun comes up tomorrow, we’ll know the answer.