My 4th Star: WCQF Blackhawks vs. Wild
Last night's game showed just how much different the regular season and playoffs are. There are going to be very few easy games, if any. The Wild were able to jump out in front after scoring on their first shot of the series by Cal Clutterbuck of all people.
But the Hawks were able to battle back and improve on some sloppy first period play. A lot of that is credit to the Wild plugging the passing lanes and playing a physical game that the Hawks didn't seem to be ready for in the first 20 minutes. But the Hawks were able to tie the game on a Hossa goal off of a great pass from Patrick Kane. The game laid tied until overtime when Bryan Bickell (my guy) pocketed the game winner after a great break-out play starting with Johnny Oduya and through Viktor Stalberg.
Michael Rozsival and Niklas Hjalmarsson were the best defenders on the ice for the Hawks last night, both making some veteran plays to shut down fast breaks and taking hits to make plays. Toftbo totaled 22:43 TOI and 3 takeaways. He was not credited with any hits, but he did absorb some hits to make plays. Rozsival was probably the better of the two, he led the team in TOI with 27:11, was credited with 6 hits, only one behind Andrew Shaw who lead the team with 7. Rozsival also blocked 2 shots, he seemed the most steady last nigh, not getting frazzled by the physical play, where Keith and Seabrook seemed a little off. Leddy also stepped up his game last night, showing some physical presence and shutting down numerous Wild chances.
Corey Crawford gets recognition for getting the garbage goal out of the way early. And by early I mean the first shot from the Wild in the game. After that little brain fart, Crawford stepped up big, turning away 26 straight shots after Clutterfuck's goal. As Greg said in the recap, Crow made two big stops on Kyle Brodziak in the first and again on Parise in OT. I was REALLY nervous after the first goal but Crow was able to be perfect after.
But there was one man, terrible hair cut and all, who seemed to be making black magic happen every time he was in an odd man situation, and that of course is our favorite little party animal Patrick Kane. If Kaner keeps up this level of play throughout the playoffs and the Hawks are able to walk away with the Cup, Kane has to be the choice for Conn Smythe. His vision and determination have seemed to progress to another level this year and it was on full display last night. Whether it was his assist on Hossa's goal, where Kane was able to get the puck past 3 Wild defenders onto the stick of the Boss Hoss. Kane is the type of player that when he has the puck on his stick he can make everyone stop what they are doing and watch him, whether that be players on the ice with him or fans packing the local watering hole. The kid has a special gear that very few people have, and it is so much fun when he kicks into that extra gear. He didn't have a great night shooting, only hitting the net on 3 of his 9 attempts, 4 were blocked and 2 missed the target but he doesn't need to score goals to be the best player on the ice, when he can attract multiple defenders someone is going to be left open. And Kaner has the skill and vision to find the open man. It may be a little early but if Kane can keep this up and the Hawks get to the dance, Kane is my favorite for MVP.