The Wild/Blackhawks series was easily the most lopsided matchup in the Western Conference and the final result ended up being that way with the Blackhawks defeating the Wild in five games and outscoring them 17-7 in the process. The Wild put up a good fight in Games 1 & 3 but in the end, they didn't have the depth to compete with the Blackhawks and were just overpowered for the majority of this series. It seemed that the Hawks had an answer for just about every method the Wild tried against them and were easily able to control just about every game at even strength. That was the case last night.
This isn't to say that the Wild were completely awful because there were parts of Game Five where they played well and they got off to a good start, but they couldn't solve goaltender Corey Crawford and that ended up coming back to haunt them. Much like we saw in the Islanders/Penguins game, if you let a team with Chicago's fire-power hang around long enough, they are eventually going to hurt you and the Hawks did that in a big way last night by taking over the game in the second period with three goals. That's how most of this series has gone, though. The Wild have done enough to stay somewhat competitive in games but they've either been unable to finish or lose focus after one mistake and let the entire game spiral out of control. I guess that's why they're just an eighth seed, though.
Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks Game Five
I actually thought the Wild didn't get off to a bad start last night but they didn't get any reward for their efforts thanks to Corey Crawford and found themselves trailing 1-0 head into the intermission after Jonas Brodin turned the puck over to Jonathan Toews in the defensive zone and the Hawks quickly capitalized on that. This is an example of what the Hawks can do to you if you're not careful and let them hang around. There wasn't much the Wild could have done about Crawford, but the Hawks are a dangerous enough team that one mistake can end up in the back of your net and we saw that with the Hossa goal. After that first period, Chicago completely took over the game and seemed to come after the Wild with every line they had and Minnesota didn't have a response to it. This led to them getting three goals in the second period and coasting their way to a series win.
Blackhawks Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Marian Hossa +6
Worst EV Forward: Michal Handzus -3
Best EV Defenseman: Niklas Hjalmarsson +9
Worst EV Defenseman: Michael Rozsival -3
How good have Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson been this series? Their coverage of the Wild's top line has been very impressive and their game last night may have been their best of the series. They led the way for the Hawks defense as they dominated the territorial play whenever they were on the ice and were very impressive offensively on top of that. Outside of these two, the Hawks defense actually struggled quite a bit last night so their play was critical for to their success.
The Hawks also got a dominant performance out of Jonathan Toews' line, who haven't made much noise on the scoresheet despite posting some impressive underlying numbers. These three have done a fantastic job of creating chances and controlling territorial play, so the goals were going to come to them eventually if they kept it up and their hard work paid off last night, as they produced two Chicago goals. Chicago's depth lines also made some good contributions, which was nice to see because their fourth line had a couple of rough games earlier in the series and their second line had some issues defensively. I have to think those will improve once Dave Bolland returns to replace Michal Handzus, though.
Wild Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Matt Cullen +4
Worst EV Forwards: Jason Pominville & Torrey Mitchell -4
Best EV Defenseman: Jared Spurgeon +1
Worst EV Defenseman: Tom Gilbert -4
Once again, the Wild's best line was Devin Setoguchi, Matt Cullen & Jason Zucker as their first line was completely held in check and Jason Pominville's contributions on the third line were miniscule at best. I mentioned that depth has been a problem for the Wild in this series but perhaps a bigger issue is that their top line was outplayed and neutralized for all but one game and they've had to turn to Zucker, Setoguchi & Cullen to provide most of their offense. Don't get me wrong, those three have played well but the Wild's first line wasn't as big of a factor as they probably should have been. They had a tough challenge going up against Duncan Keith & Jonathan Toews on a nightly basis, but they still had a disappointing series regardless.
Another player who had a somewhat disappointing series was Ryan Suter, who ended up getting outchanced in just about every game. I don't think it's necessarily his fault since Minnesota counts on him and Jonas Brodin to basically carry their entire defense with little assistance, but they still looked a little out of their element at times. They definitely could have used some help last night, though as the Wild's third pairing got lit up and Jared Spurgeon was their only defenseman to not get outchanced at even strength.
Head-to-Head at Five-on-Five
The key forward matchups in this game was Toews vs. Koivu and Handzus vs. Brodziak, but there were times when Quenneville was able to get Toews out against the likes of Kyle Brodziak & Torrey Mitchell and the Wild were massacred whenever that happened. Quenneville also kept Keith & Hjalmarsson on Koivu's line for most of the game and they were able to dominate that line while padding their stats against the Wild's bottom-six, as well. The Toews line didn't seem to have much of a problem playing against Suter & Brodin ether.
|1||CHI||4:21||Hossa – GOAL||19||81||20||7||8||50||21||96||29||20||25||37||5v5|
|2||CHI||16:41||Kruger – GOAL||16||67||13||27||32||50||9||27||22||44||77||37||5v5|
|2||CHI||13:34||Hossa – GOAL||16||81||20||7||8||50||17||63||11||6||46||37||5v5|
|2||MIN||9:49||Mitchell – GOAL||26||10||88||8||32||50||17||21||22||6||77||35||5v5|
|2||CHI||9:14||Shaw – GOAL||65||25||29||2||4||50||17||21||22||20||25||35||5v5|
|3||CHI||13:56||Sharp – GOAL||19||10||81||88||2||50||21||22||25||35||5v3|