Now some of you may disagree with me calling the Chicago Blackhawks formidable but with the longstanding rivalry between Minnesota and Chicago, yes including the North Stars days, it seemed fitting. As much as I would like to say I hate the Blackhawks, I actually don’t. I have a respect for Chicago that any true sports fan would have to agree with and when you look at their record, it demands respect because it is hard to deny that they are a very talented team.
Chicago is one of the few teams that Minnesota has always been pretty evenly matched with. The Blackhawks play quite similar and don’t rely on just one name to win games. The fact that they have quite a few “superstars” doesn’t hurt either but it can be a hindrance when everyone knows who those players are and teams focus all their efforts on shutting those players down. Players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and even their defensemen like Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook
With that being said even those guys couldn’t put a stop to the Minnesota Wild this evening. Despite having an early two goal lead before the halfway point of the game, Chicago wasn’t safe and the saying “a two goal lead is the hardest to keep” came true. The Wild were able to answer back with two goals of their own and end the second tied.
Going into the third it was a whole new game and a clean slate until Minnesota’s Jason Pominville found the perfect opening on the side of the net for a pass from Marco Scandella that Pominville was able to slide right past Chicago goaltender Scott Darling and capture the lead for the Wild. Minnesota kept the lead for the last 15 or so minutes left in the game and took both the game and FIRST PLACE in both the Division and the Conference from the Blackhawks. Yep, the Wild are officially in sole possession of the conference! Now they just have to keep winning and not look back, there’s still 41 games left of the season and anything can happen.
The Wild have been playing some damn good hockey this season and in this game alone they held Toews to zero shots on goal which rarely happens and Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 of 35 shots with a .943 save percentage. Kane had two goals and 12 shots but hardly any team can keep him at bay no matter how good they are and the Wild were still able to come out on top. Kane isn’t always scoring goals either, he nearly had a giveaway in front of his own net that the Wild’s Mikeal Granlund almost capitalized on.
Minnesota was out-shot but their defense made sure to play the box and keep the puck to the outside or not let Chicago control it for long meaning they forced the Blackhawks to take shots. Dubnyk had full support from his team and there weren’t very many Chicago players that ended up alone in front of the net. The Wild were also good at making Chicago panic with the puck and make blind passes that wouldn’t connect.
One thing the Wild need to focus on is staying out of the box in the last-minute of the game. I know this doesn’t happy all the time but Ryan Suter received a penalty in the last 40 seconds or so and at that time in the game with a one goal lead we need all of our players on the ice. It wasn’t an intentional penalty by any means but the Wild really need to keep an eye on that. Overall they only had six penalty minutes while Chicago had four and that is quite low for these two teams when they play each other.
The Wild now get to head for home and earned a day off before they face off against Zach Parise’s former team the New Jersey Devils who currently sit 12th in their conference and are 500. on the season. Former Edmonton Oiler Taylor Hall is now with the Devils and Parise’s former teammate from both the Devils and his time with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Travis Zajac is still skating with the DEvils as well (Yes, I had to throw UND in there of course!). So it will be an interesting match-up as always whenever a a Wild player’s former team shows up.
The game will start at 7pm at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday evening. The Wild will be looking to defend their first place standing and continue to grab all those points necessary for playoffs. Thanks for reading!