The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild took it outside on Sunday afternoon, but only one team appeared to show up, with the Wild dominating all 60 minutes of play en route to a 6-1 win. Minnesota's defense stifled the Blackhawks offensive attack and the Blackhawks blue line was borderline horrible all day.
The Wild got started very early. They won the game's opening faceoff an immediately took the puck down the ice for a pretty good scoring chance right off the bat. They opened the scoring just 3:25 into the game when Matt Dumba joined a rush and was able to put home a rebound after Brent Seabrook did a whole lot of nothing to help Corey Crawford out. Minnesota scored again just four minutes later, with Thomas Vanek redirecting a puck past a screened Crawford. They took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
The second period did not start much better for Chicago than the first. Just two and a half minutes into the middle frame, Nino Niederreiter put one into a wide open net after a beautiful passing play by Jason Pominville and Erik Haula set him up. The trio hooked up again later in the period, when Pominville walked into huge slapshot to beat Crawford and give Minnesota a 4-0 lead. They carried that into the third period.
Chicago made a change in net for the closing frame, with Scott Darling drawing in for Crawford, but that didn't make much of a difference. In what was a truly annoying trend, the Wild scored early in the third period when Ryan Carter beat Darling on a breakaway to make the score 5-0. Patrick Kane would add a goal with just under eight minutes remaining to get Chicago on the board, but he later conceded a goal when he tripped Haula and prevented him from scoring on an empty net, resulting in an automatic goal.
This truly may have been the Blackhawks worst performance of the season. They were never able to get their offense going, and their defense looked absolutely horrible all night. The pair of Brent Seabrook and Trevor van Riemsdyk had a particularly bad game, as they were a -2 and -3, respectively, and looked pretty much horrible all night.
I have been of the opinion that a top six forward was of the utmost importance for the Blackhawks this season, but a trade for a defenseman would be a welcome sight as well if this performance is to be indicative of what's to come from the Chicago blue line. There's still a chance Erik Gustafsson could be the difference maker back there, but he seems to be in Quenneville's doghouse right now. Whatever he's done to get there can not be as bad as the way the defense played today.
One thing to keep an eye on this coming week with the blue line will be the status of Michal Roszival. Rozy was given a game misconduct in the second period after laying a hit on Jason Zucker that resulted in Zucker leaving the game with an apparent head injury. Here are a few looks at the hit:
Oh man, Zucker hit his head pretty hard on the ice pic.twitter.com/4ZeNCdpugR— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 21, 2016
Hit on Zucker at full speed https://t.co/FRvewqLR4h— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 21, 2016
Here’s the P.O.C. on Rozsival’s hit. Zucker is bent over, Rozsival never launched or left his feet. Elbow tucked. pic.twitter.com/ISgcjBAX53— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 21, 2016
Truthfully I do not see anything wrong with that hit, for all of the reasons mentioned in that final tweet. Watching the hit, Zucker changes his head position prior to the hit. It shouldn't result in a suspension, but it also shouldn't have resulted in a game misconduct. Honestly I don't think it would've been a penalty at all if not for the injury to Zucker -- neither referee had their arm up until Zucker stayed down. I wouldn't be shocked if Rozy got a one game benching from the NHL, though, given the fact that he was ejected from the game.
Regardless, this was a bad game, but we don't need to dwell on it. It certainly sucks to the Blackhawks lay an egg on the national stage in what we would've liked to be a fun event, but in the end it's nothing more than another regular season loss. The Blackhawks will look to rebound from this one on Thursday when they will play host to the Nashville Predators. That one is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. CT.
Adam Hess is a staff writer at Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter at @_adamhess.