The general consensus on my Twitter timeline following the Hawks 4-1 dismantling of the Wild was that Game 2 was the most complete performance we’ve seen out of the Blackhawks this postseason.
It’s hard to disagree, as there were contributions from the entire lineup.
Top-liners Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa combined for a shorthanded goal thanks to a fortuitous bounce off the butt end of Devan Dubnyk’s goalie stick.
Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane connected on a beautiful stretch pass that led to a back-breaking goal in the waning moments of the second period (more on that later). The wing opposite Kane on that second line, Bryan Bickell, was a physical presence all over the ice, racking up 12 hits.
The third line of Teuvo Teravainen, Antoine Vermette and Patrick Sharp continued to shine as well. Vermette went 11-for-16 on faceoffs, while a brilliant pass from Teravainen and a snipe from Sharp gave the Hawks a much-needed insurance goal in the third period.
The fourth line did not get on the board, but Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Desjardins generated enough pressure to garner about 13 minutes of ice time per player on Sunday night.
Perhaps the best part of this Blackhawks performance was the defensive effort. After stifling the Wild in the final period of Game 1, they continued to restrict Minnesota’s scoring chances. The Wild had just 16 total shots in the first two periods, and Corey Crawford was there as the final backstop on the few scoring chances the Wild generated.
Other than a minor hiccup on a well-placed shot from Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Crawford made every save that was asked of him. The days of alternating goalies in the middle of a series appear to be over.
For me, though, the main highlight of tonight’s game was that goal by Patrick Kane. Let’s take a quick look at it, thanks to a few GIFs from Twitter user @myregularface (who is an outstanding follow for hockey season, by the way).
First off, it was an excellent read by Kane to see that a) with the linesman’s arm up on a delayed offside call, the Wild had no scoring threat at that time, so headed up the ice and b) Wild defenseman Ryan Suter had jumped up way too far in the play.
Keith’s on-ice vision is one of his many tools, and he saw a passing lane that few other NHL defenseman can.
For my money, though, it’s the reception of Keith’s missile of a pass that is the real highlight of this video. Keith had to fire this pass to Kane’s right to keep it away from a few Minnesota players, and Kane is able to do a quick 180, corral the puck, and complete the full 360-spin to head in on net with a golden opportunity.
And with that much time and space for Kane, he makes no mistake with a shot that couldn’t have been placed any better.
I don’t think we appreciate Patrick Kane’s brilliance enough. The offensive talent we’re seeing from this 26-year-old could go down as the best we’ve ever seen from an American-born player. And as the broadcast tonight detailed, he’s averaging a point per game in his 101 career playoff games. Kane is in his prime. Be sure to take some time to marvel at his ability: he is a generational talent.
On to Game 3.