Through the first two games of the series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild, Chicago’s star players showed up in force while the Wild’s best players were almost non-existent.
That narrative took a dramatic turn in Game 3 on Tuesday night. Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson all registered points for the Wild in a 4-0 shutout that left the previously-dominant Blackhawks stars with a slew of goose eggs on the score sheet.
The last thing Chicago wanted was to let players like Parise and Pominville regain offensive confidence. One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks won Games 1 and 2 was the Wild’s inability to finish off scoring chances, with Parise in particular being visibly frustrated.
In order to take Game 4, Chicago needs to renew its focus at the defensive end. Being shut out isn’t much of a worry; the offense will come, and Joel Quenneville will all but assuredly institute a more aggressive forecheck and general offensive mentality for Game 4. The upcoming game on Friday night will be decided by whether or not the Blackhawks can neutralize Minnesota’s stars just as they did in the first two games of the series.
It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try using Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in a primary shutdown role against the Granlund line, a role that Quenneville and the Blackhawks have generally designated to Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya throughout the year. The rest will take care of itself; Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa are exceedingly unlikely to go pointless in two straight.
A series that seemed primed to become a blowout is now a legitimate battle. Chicago must adjust as such.