ST. PAUL, Minn. – Another series is in the books for the Blackhawks.
It took until Game 6 for this series to have a game go to overtime, a far cry from the four overtime games we saw when the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues played in the 1st round. The series was tough nonetheless; the Wild made sure of that.
Now the Blackhawks wait to see who they play next. Anaheim and Los Angeles play Game 6 on Wednesday, with the Ducks leading the Kings 3-2. If Anaheim wins, it will host Chicago; if Los Angeles comes back to win, the Blackhawks would have home-ice advantage.
But we’ll worry about that once things shake out. Before we go, let’s look back at some of the highs of this Blackhawks-Wild series.
1. This is not last year’s Wild.
Full marks to Minnesota. Let’s be honest: there were many times when the Wild outplayed the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane, whose goal clinched Game 6 and the series, said, “I don’t know what it is against this team. We never really seem to play our best, whether dating back to last year’s playoffs or even this year.” The Wild were stronger, healthier and more opportunistic. This is a team with a great future; the present was pretty good as it was.
2. The difference was the difference makers.
Both teams have guys who fall into this category; the Blackhawks’ versions had more of the final answers. Kane had two game-winning goals this series, including last night. Jonathan Toews had the winner in Game 5. Corey Crawford provided the big stops at one end when the Blackhawks could start little at the other. You count on certain players being the difference this time of the year; those guys have been.
3. Erik Haula is a talent.
For the Blackhawks, Haula was this round’s Vladimir Tarasenko: they just couldn’t stop the kid. The Finnish-born center had two assists and three goals, including the winner in Game 3, against the Blackhawks this past round. Not bad for a rookie who had six goals through 46 regular-season games. He’s certainly no household name, but the Blackhawks certainly won’t forget who he is.
4. Crawford looks good again.
Hey, his critics are never going to go away, it’s just a fact. But for another series, Crawford followed up a so-so performance with a great one. In this case, he finished off the series with two great ones. Through two rounds, Crawford has a 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, second among postseason goalies in both categories.
5. Niklas Hjalmarsson… that is all.
No talking? No problem. Hjalmarsson continues to have a tremendous postseason, albeit a painful one. The defenseman was advised not to talk for a few days after taking a puck to the throat in Game 2. His game didn’t go quiet, and he enters the conference finals with 38 blocked shots, tied for the league lead this postseason.