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Blackhawks halfway to eliminating Wild

During the Stanley Cup playoffs, anything can happen. Top-seeded teams can quickly fall, under-dogs can seemingly come from nowhere and lesser-known players can become unexpected heroes.

So far, for Chicago, they’ve done well proving they are same elite team as they were in the regular season. With a 5-2 win, the Blackhawks have taken a 2-0 series lead over the Minnesota Wild.

However, the two games were played very differently for the Blackhawks. In Game 1, the Wild took the early 1-0 lead and it was beginning to look like the Cinderella stories that are so frequent in the NHL playoffs. The 8th seeded Wild were carrying momentum as they took their game to the President’s Trophy winners. But Chicago was able to answer the call with a style of play that was unseen during their regular season; the physical game. Chicago made checking a priority and was able to out-hit Minnesota.

Now, there are many opinions on the importance of hits in a hockey game. A large population of opinions feel that a hits statistic has no value. The truth is, the hits stat is a decent (not perfect) indicator of the physical play by either team.

Chicago out-hit Minnesota, and it became clear that they were relying somewhat on their physical play to slow down the Wild. A strategy very different from their normal style. This kind of curveball in strategy has become a trademark for Chicago’s Coach Joel Quenneville, so it’s not surprising to seem him pull this card from under his sleeve.

The strategy worked, as Chicago was able to tie the game in the second period, then take the lead and the win late in the third.

Game 2 was a very different story. While Chicago took the victory, they did so in a very different style. The physical play was down, and Chicago went back to the basics.

Blackhawks halfway to eliminating Wild
CHICAGO, IL – MAY 3: Brandon Bollig #52, Andrew Shaw #65 and Michael Frolik #67 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after Frolik scored in the first period, as Justin Falk #44 of the Minnesota Wild stands in the foreground, in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on May 03, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.
(Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The advanced pass plays that were broken up in Game 1 were absent from Game 2, and instead more direct shots were taken on net. Basically it came down to, ‘if you’re close to the net, shoot; and shoot often’.

As a result, Michael Frolik, a name possibly not known outside of Chicago, took the first star of the night with Chicago’s first two goals. Frolik isn’t a fancy playmaker and the ‘shoot often’ strategy is right in his comfort-zone. Patrick Sharp had two tallies on the night as well as he focused more on getting shots to the net.

Thus far, Corey Crawford has been solid in net and playing to the caliber he displayed in the regular season. As soon as Ray Emery can get healthy, Chicago will be able to breathe comfortably knowing the netminding is where it needs to be.

Chicago has a real chance of overtaking Minnesota in the series. Even if Minnesota makes things interesting with a win, Chicago is finding ways to play in a variety of styles. Quenneville is known for being a master with misdirection and is expected to switch styles whenever he feels the time is right.



David Schauer is an award-winning, professional writer who has been involved in organized hockey for over twenty years. He has been published hundreds of times; about the same number of times he has been checked into the boards.

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