Welcome to live hockey in Minnesota by way of the Chi-Guy family room.  The Wife and I are cozying in this evening for a big Game 4 in the Hawks-Wild playoffs.  Big game is a relative term as if the Hawks do what they’re supposed to do and take care of their business here tonight then the series is all but over. 

A couple things I’m looking for tonight:

  • The Hawks to come out flying.  Everyone has been concerned about their physical play (or lack thereof) after Sunday’s Game 3.  Guess what, the Hawks haven’t been physical all year.  Their strength is being that much more skilled than their opponent that any time you’re concerned with playing the body they have the ability to make you pay for it eventually. 
  • The Hossa/Toews/Saad line to light the lamp.  It’s time boys.  Particularly looking for something nice from Calder Cup finalist Brandon Saad tonight.
  • I wouldn’t mind seeing Corey Crawford absolutely dominate tonight in the form of a shutout or a game that we’ll collectively look back and say he “won” for the team.  It would bode well for the rest of the playoff journey ahead if he can get one of those under his belt.

Without further ado…

20:00 – Why don’t they show the National Anthem at other arenas?  Are they just not that memorable?  If that’s the case then kudos to Chicago.  That’s an awesome tradition to have.

19:01 – So much for early momentum.  Handzus finds his way into the sin-bin for shoving a member of the Wild into the goal.  That’s not legal?

14:11 – The Hawks absolutely just dodged a bullet as the Wild’s Parise line just took the Toews line to school.  Whenever you guys are ready to kick it into gear we’re ready for you.

12:58 – Kudos to the Keith family for your newest member Colton.  7 lbs 7 oz on May 7th.  I think it’s a sign that Duncan misses playing with Seabrook.  Duncan – congratulations, you’ll learn to appreciate these little getaways that the league calls road trips.

11:30 – This series has really lacked the emergence of a true enemy on Minnesota.  They’re either too nice or not memorable at all.  Can we all just agree to start hating Cal Clutterbuck just to have somewhere to direct our vitriol?

11:12 – He shoots, he scores!  Handzus fires one off of Sharp after a feed from Hossa.  The lines are a bit screwy but the results are what we’re looking for.  1-0 Hawks.

 9:47 – Gorilla Salad (aka Daniel Carcillo) gets his name on the stat sheet with a stupid penalty away from the play.  I prefer a Hawks lineup that has him watching from the press box.

7:04 – I take my comment back from earlier.  I really could do without Devin Setoguchi.

5:07 – Cal Clutterbuck absolutely just blew up Brent Seabrook.  With a very clean hit he literally sent the 6’3” 221 lb. Seabrook flying through the air.  I’m not even mad, that’s amazing.  

4:46 – Hey Nick Leddy.  Sometimes when guys play in front of their hometown crowds they tend to really play with a jump in their step in an attempt to impress.  Particularly if their hometown team is also the team that traded them two years ago.  Just sayin’…

3:18 – Jonathan Toews just ran over Josh Harding and he got up.  Kudos to him this series for the record.  Diagnosed with MS before the season began and thrown into his first ever playoff game (let alone series) he’s been an admirable foe thus far. 

End of the 1st Period

After a less than awe-inspiring effort on both sides, the Hawks are on the right side of the ledger with a 1-0 lead.  I think if they can make that 3-0 after the next 20 minutes this game, and in turn this series is over.  Harding appears to be smarting from the Toews collision so hopefully he tightens up in the next 20 minutes and the Hawks take advantage. 

Beginning of the 2nd Period

20:00 – So much for Harding tightening up as it appears he got a little too tight between periods.  Darcy Kuemper is starting the second between the pipes for Minnesota.  It’s  his 6th NHL game ever.  There’s an old saying in hockey that if you can’t beat the backups backup…

19:24 - It appears that Coach Q has gone full boat and has swapped Kane and Hossa on their respective lines.  For better or worse Q has always shown a willingness to change things up on the fly if he doesn’t lie what he’s seeing – even if the lines have been pretty much set in stone since the pre-season.

18:58 – Did I mention Coach Q’s line changes are brilliant?  Sharp fires a wicked wrister from the top of the circle and beats Kuemper on his first shot faced.  2-0 Hawks.

16:30 – This is the Blackhawks hockey I was expecting tonight.  The Toews line is working the puck around the offensive end creating multiple chances.  Nothing to show for it now but a few more of those and this game will be out of hand pretty quickly.

15:44 – The revelation of this series may be that it appears Kane is actually able to grow a playoff beard this year (in his 6th season).

15:30 – The Wild are on their third power play of the game (to the Hawks one).  The Hawks appear to be willingly giving up the perimeter allowing long shots but not letting any penetration in close.  This is a less aggressive approach than they typically tend to play.

8:43 – After perhaps the best offensive back and forth of the series Rosival buries Clutterbuck in the corner from behind.  The Wild go back on the power play which may be their only chance to stay in this game.

7:04 – As noted above the Blackhawks conservative penalty kill approach allows for the Wild to tee up slapshots from 20’ and beyond.  Lucky for the scoreboard operator the Wild seem to lack the ability to hit the broad side of a barn from that distance.

End of the 2nd Period

If it seems like I went a while between comments that period it’s because I did.  It was admittedly pretty boring hockey, which plays right into the Hawks hands.  In series like this where one team is a heavy favorite the best thing that can happen is nothing exciting at all.  If you’re the Wild here you’re looking to stir things up and get under the Hawks skin.  Start some fights, create some chaos.  The worst thing is for the games to go quietly and peacefully by.  It’s kind of like how the Heat handled the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs.  Aside from Brandon Jennings ridiculous guarantee, was there anything you remember about those four games?  Me neither.  The Wild got their win in front of a playoff hungry home crowd on Sunday (it had been five years since playoff hockey was played in Minnesota) and now the Hawks are hoping they can lull them to sleep with a couple of Sharp goals and return back to Chicago for the series win.  Well played sirs.

Start of the 3rd Period

18:52 – As a nice change of pace the Blackhawks are back on the penalty kill (their fifth) after Patrick Kane accidentally puts the puck over the boards.  The Wild can’t complain that they didn’t have their chances in this game.

16:52 – There was talk around the trade deadline that the Hawks may have been pursuing the Wild’s second line center Matt Cullen.  While having his moments and probably a better overall player, I’m not sure that he would have brought much more to the table than Michael Handzus has to this team (and I assume the Hawks would have had to give up more to get him).  Oh, by the way, right as the Hawks killed their fifth penalty of the game they just took another one.  Wild are back up with a man advantage for the tenth through twelfth minutes of this game.

14:30 – The Wild are 0-6 when they have 20% more players on the ice than the Hawks tonight.

12:11 – The Blackhawks need to be going out of their way to put the body on Ryan Suter every chance they get.  He’s the only one on this roster that can keep up with them as he plays more than half of each game for the Wild.  He needs to be sore after each game and looking over his shoulder every time that he goes to retrieve the puck from the corner.

10:15 – Wait, what’s that?  The Wild can commit penalties too?  That’s weird.  The Hawks go one the power play (their 2nd of the game) and I’d like to point out that now would be a great time to put this game away with a 3-0 lead. 

8:15 – The Hawks do nothing with their man advantage and the teams play on…

7:14 – Bryan Bickell’s contract negotiation… err… playoff run continues with a quick snap shot from essentially the corner that finds its way into the back of the net.  3-0 Hawks.  Time to go home Wild fans.  Beat the traffic while you can.

5:19 – Would anyone else like to know more about the Minnesota-cute girl with the Mardi Gras beads sitting behind Quenneville tonight?   

1:36 – Ugh.  Is this over yet?

End of the 3rd Period

Ok, so my timing sucked.  I picked a dead fish of a game to live blog.  Crawford came through with a shutout but you could argue that he never really was tested (25 saves but few were of the high pressure variety).  The Hawks did their job in keeping the game boring and unmemorable which played right into their hands.  Everyone did their jobs and they didn’t get sucked into a pissing match trying to rough up the host Minnesotans.  The series is now 3-1 and headed back to Chicago on Thursday.  The best I can say is that no one was injured and the team is now 60 minutes away from awaiting their next opponent.  In the playoffs all that matters is that you win and advance.  No one said it had to be pretty.