The Chicago Blackhawks came out with the right result on Friday, even if it wasn’t their most complete game. Hey, if you’re them, you’re happy to get the victory and you look to play better in Game 2.
Now, Game 2 is upon us. It’ll be the same goaltending matchup as Friday, with Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks and Ilya Bryzgalov for the Wild. Andrew Shaw is out tonight and Kris Versteeg is likely back in after missing Game 1 with an illness.
So while we prepare for a much friendlier start time, let’s look at the Five Things to watch for in today’s Wild-Blackhawks game.
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1. Work Bryzgalov more. The Wild goaltender had shaky moments through the first period on Friday; he lost sight of a few pucks and allowed some decent rebounds. Instead of peppering him with shots, however, the Blackhawks went into on-their-heels mode, getting just three shots on goal in the second period. The Blackhawks have to rattle Bryzgalov and, once they do that, keep rattling him. No backing off.
2. Keep the net-front presence. This is where the Blackhawks miss Shaw the most and with him absent today, the team will look to others to plant themselves in front of the Wild net. Bryan Bickell did it more in Game 1 – and he should still do it once Shaw gets back, too – and Ben Smith was also willing to do it. It’s that time of the year for ugly, greasy goals, and other players have to be willing to pay the price while Shaw is out.
3. Keep Zach Parise at bay. The Wild forward had his opportunities on Friday, finishing with a team-high six shots on goal and one assist. The Blackhawks did a good job quelling him in last year’s first-round series and they have to continue to do so again. Sure, the Wild have several offensive weapons but Parise is still the most dangerous.
4. Keep the penalty kill rolling. It came up big again in Game 1, denying the Wild on three opportunities. Be it the blocked shots or Corey Crawford’s goaltending, the kill is looking like it did last postseason. Not a bad trend to continue.
5. Our pick to click is Brandon Saad. He had a sweet pass to set up Marian Hossa’s power-play goal in Game 1 and you can tell Saad is on the verge of breaking out of his goal-scoring slump. We think he does it today.