The defending Stanley Cup champions were getting booed off the ice after 20 minutes of Game 5. And why not?
The Blackhawks were being outscored and outplayed in their building. They were getting pantsed at their own game, in fact. The Wild skated better and moved the puck quicker. They had more shots, better scoring chances and a faster game than a Hawks team that is supposed to be the gold standard in such things.
But no. A wild-card team was schooling the team with the trophy.
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The Hawks showed more jump at the start than they had in two awful losses in Minnesota, but they still couldn’t get their pace as the Wild trapped in the neutral zone.
The Hawks also showed a little less stupidity, chipping the puck in and chasing it. Problem was, the Hawks didn't chase very well. Worse, they were erratic in puck support, allowing the Wild to clear the zone too easily too often.
The “Madhouse on Madison’’ had good reason to be a mad house.
Second period, different deal. The Hawks played as if they heard the fans. Or maybe their growling coach between periods. Or maybe each other.
Whatever, the Hawks controlled the puck and controlled the play to start the second period. They were faster and quicker than the Wild. In fact, they were so quick, the Wild couldn’t even stack the neutral zone, and when they did, the Hawks dumped the puck and used their speed to pressure the Wild.
The Hawks outshot the visitors 15-6, and it probably should’ve been worse. The Wild were packing it in down low, with Wild skaters blocking as many shots as goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
But hey, if you have the puck, then they don’t, and if you have the puck, then good things can happen.
The Hawks continued to impose their game on the visitors in the third period. More skating, better puck possession, more offense, better net presence. Like that, Jonathan Toews finished a play at the right post that gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead less than five minutes into the third period.
One important element of the Hawks' game worth noting is the way they played the third period after they took the lead. They didn’t concede two-thirds of the ice the way they had earlier in the postseason. They weren’t content just to chip it out. They weren’t giving the Wild free rushes.
No, the Hawks continued to attack. They tried to move the puck and carry the play. If they had to kill the clock, they wanted to to do it in the Wild’s zone.
They were outshot in the third period and needed some massive saves from Corey Crawford in the last few minutes, but they weren't getting bombarded for 10 straight minutes.
By the end, the Hawks had found their game and won a 2-1 affair. Nice timing on both counts.
It took them a period, but the Blackhawks finally remembered that they’re the team that skates, controls the puck, shoots and goes to the net. Now, can they hold that thought for two days?