Game 6 between the Blackhawks and Wild begins at 8 p.m. on CNBC, or you can watch via NBC Live Extra's live stream here. And don't forget to flip over to Comcast SportsNet after the game for Blackhawks Postgame Live, which will also be streaming on CSNChicago.com here.
Ah, weather: You can usually predict what’s coming, but you can’t always predict what it will do to a travel schedule. When that happens, you adjust as best you can and get to your planned destination as quickly and safely as possible.
Speaking of weathering storms, the Blackhawks will be trying to do the same tonight in Game 6 of their second-round series with the Minnesota Wild. Actually, they’ll be trying to eliminate the Wild; the Blackhawks are good in these games, sporting a robust 11-2 record in clinching games since 2009.
Much like Monday’s weather, however, the Blackhawks’ first two games at Xcel Energy Center were tumultuous. The Wild pressed them, hounded them and kept them from getting quality shots on Ilya Bryzgalov. Coming off a Game 5 victory at home, however, the Blackhawks are brimming with confidence and know they have to be better, stronger and faster to beat the Wild at Xcel, where they haven’t lost yet this postseason.
Andrew Shaw is out for Game 6; the forward is improving, and if he didn’t start skating today back in Chicago, he could on Wednesday. The Blackhawks are expected to go with the same lines or pretty close to the ones they had in Game 5.
Will the Blackhawks beat the Wild at their own game in their own building? Will they avoid the Wild trap? Will the weather be better on Wednesday for the trip home? While we ponder these questions and more, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blackhawks-Wild game.
1. Don’t overthink things. The Blackhawks were over-tinkering the lines something fierce in Game 4. There was no rhythm, no production as they struggled to break the Wild’s press. To be successful, Bryan Bickell said the Blackhawks must do what they did in Game 5: simplify. Start fast, push through the press and proceed. Take a hint from Peter Regin’s move midway through Sunday’s game: Just go straight up the gut and make the Wild stop you.
2. Quit waiting for the perfect shot. The Blackhawks were stymied on the shot totals the first two games at Xcel. Again, full marks to the Wild defense. The Blackhawks, however, didn’t push enough. They stuck to the perimeter, had no net presence and too often hesitated, waited, passed and waited some more. As Joel Quenneville said, you don’t want to create something that’s not there and have a turnover go the other way; but they do need to take the initiative to some degree.
3. Keep that top line together. Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa were strong when Quenneville put them together in Game 5. Toews and Hossa have had great postseasons individually, and Sharp is getting that offensive spark here and there. Together they’re a tough combination to beat, so make the Wild try to beat it. This isn’t the time for balanced lines so much as it is time for a great attacking line. Keep these three together.
4. Bring your most excellent game, Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks goaltender had a tough outing in Game 4, though the defense around him wasn’t so stellar, either. As Hossa put it, “We need to help him out, too. I don’t think in Minnesota we did a good job to help him out much.” Crawford rebounded and was great in Game 5, especially in the waning minutes. He’ll need that game again tonight.
5.Our pick to click is Bickell. It’s Game 6, it’s a potential clincher and it’s going to be tight again. The Blackhawks will need those ugly, gritty goals like they got in Game 5, and Bickell has to be the one providing net-front presence to get them.