If I had to pick a series that was going to be the most lopsided, the Western Conference's 1 vs. 8 matchup between the Wild & Blackhawks would probably be at the top of my list. As I mentioned in my playoff preview, the Hawks are superior to the Wild in just about every category and should be able to handle them in at least five games. The Wild managed to push Chicago to overtime in Game One before losing in overtime thanks to a phenomenal effort in goal from Josh Harding, but Game Two went a bit differently. The Wild took a 5-2 loss and were grossly outplayed for about three-fourths of the game. I know Minnesota is playing with a couple key injuries (Jason Pominville's absence being a big one), but they looked like a team that was just plain outmatched in Game Two. They can't expect Harding to keep them in every game and they certainly can't continue to give up 40-50 shots every game if they want to have a chance in this series.
Minnesota was able to make things a little interesting in the second period on the back of a strong performance on the powerplay, but Chicago won just about every other battle and earned themselves a two-game advantage in the series.
Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks Game Two
The Wild were very good in the second period and that was probably the best they've looked all series but outside of that, they had only six total scoring chances while the Blackhawks throttled them for the rest of the game. Part of the reason why the Wild had an advantage that period was because they had a powerplay opportunity where they generated five total scoring chances in one sequence and they seemed to have more of a jump after that. It ended up paying off near the end of the period where they got a huge goal from Devin Setoguchi off a bad line change by Chicago and they were trailing only 2-1 entering the third period.
Unfortunately for Chicago, whatever momentum they had in the second period quickly faded in the third, as the Hawks dominated them and prevented the Wild from even recording a scoring chance for 17 minutes. This is what Chicago does to most teams, though. They're a strong possession team, have tremendous depth and it's going to be hard for a lot teams to match up with them. Chicago also has a great combination of talent and size on all four lines, so they are able to control the puck for long period of time while putting up a ton of offense on top of that. Having Pominville in the lineup would help Minnesota match up with the Hawks better, but it's going to take more than one player to fix this kind of performance.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Brandon Saad & Patrick Kane +6
Worst EV Forward: Michael Frolik -5
Best EV Defenseman: Johnny Oduya +7
Worst EV Defensemen: Nick Leddy & Brent Seabrook EVEN
The Hawks top two lines were on fire last night and one player who stood out was Brandon Saad. He's in a great situation with playing on Toews' line but his speed and creativity really frustrated the Wild's defense last night and they seemed to have trouble containing him in all areas. He had a very active night with seven shots on goal, six of them being scoring chances and was all over the place. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp were also giving the Wild a ton of fits last night and the former basically looked like he was playing in a skills competition with how easily he was able to weave through Minnesota's defense. The Hawks top-nine is tough to contain in general and it poses a lot of bad matchups for the Wild since Suter/Brodin can't cover them all & they aren't very deep on the blue line.
Michael Frolik also had himself a night with two goals, which were the only two scoring chances he was on the ice for.
Wild Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Matt Cullen +3
Worst EV Forwards: Kyle Brodziak & Mikko Koivu -4
Best EV Defenseman: Jared Spurgeon +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Tom Gilbert & Ryan Suter -4
Players who the Wild normally expect to play tough matchups got the stuffing kicked out of them during five-on-five play. Koivu's line was crushed by Patrick Kane, Brodziak got destroyed by Toews' line and Suter/Brodin took significant damage against both of Chicago's top-two lines. The Wild got a lot of their scoring chances in bunches with broken lines, so the numbers are a little skewed here, but the overall reuslts are still pretty accurate. Cullen & Zucker were the only plaeyrs able to drive the play forward and their top-line was held ineffective at even strength.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
This isn't promising if you're a Wild fan hoping that having the last change at home will help the next two games. Koivu struggled to contain the Hawks third line and so did Suter/Brodin and the only line they were able to generate a lot of offense against was the Hawks fourth unit. Mike Yeo should be able to get favorable matchups against those three at home, but there's only so much you can do against them since they don't play much. The Wild are gong to need their forwards to do a much better job against Chicago's big guns if they want to pull off a comeback.
|1||CHI||11:27||Frolik – GOAL||65||67||52||27||32||50||17||27||28||44||77||37||5v5|
|2||CHI||19:11||Frolik – GOAL||16||67||2||4||50||9||21||11||20||46||37||4v5|
|2||MIN||2:03||Setoguchi – GOAL||65||67||29||2||7||50||7||10||16||44||77||37||5v5|
|3||CHI||16:16||Sharp – GOAl||26||10||88||27||32||50||7||10||16||25||46||37||5v5|
|3||CHI||5:52||Sharp – GOAL||26||10||88||2||4||50||9||63||11||44||77||37||5v5|
|3||MIN||3:32||Scandella – GOAL||16||67||52||7||8||50||7||63||16||6||46||37||5v5|