The Chicago Blackhawks picked up a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Friday night, in turn taking a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinal matchup. This wasn’t a surprising victory to many onlookers, and there were certainly more than enough factors to show why the Blackhawks are the clear favorites to win the series.
Chief amongst the positive factors in this game for Chicago was that they really didn’t play that well, losing the shot battle 31-22, but Corey Crawford showed up in a big way. Crawford made a few spectacular saves, and really held the fort down as the Wild outshot the Blackhawks 17-3 in the second period, and generally dominated the flow of play for long stretches of the game. The 29 year old showed a great deal of composure throughout the game, and it is safe to say that he showed detractors that he can steal a game or two during the playoffs.
Aside from Crawford being magnificent, the Blackhawks also were great on the powerplay, as they scored on 2-4 opportunities, and compiled five shots along the way. With Duncan Keith serving as the quarterback on the back end the power play unit was predictably stable, the likes of Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell provided the mix of skill and power to absolutely terrorize Minnesota. All in all, it looked like the unit clicked after going 3-20 on power play opportunities in the first round, which is a scary proposition for the Wild.
As if to put the icing on the cake, Chicago got an absolutely dynamic performance from Kane, who looked liable to score every time he touched the puck. It is not often that one player can make as big of a difference as Kane did, as he scored the Blackhawks third and fourth goals of the game, with his second goal being an end to end effort that few players could pull off. If this game is any indication, then look for the 25 year old to have a series for the ages, and to draw loads of attention in the process.
In the end, this may have only been one game, but it provided plenty of reason to believe that Chicago will win this series in relatively short order. After all, the mixture of great goaltending, a dominant power play unit, and a star like Kane should be enough to overpower the Wild in short order, especially if the team can get it going in 5-on-5 situations.