Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

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Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 5:34 p.m. Updated: 12:03 a.m.
By Chris BodenCSNChicago.com

The Blackhawks weren't flying quite as high as they would've liked en route to Game 7 in Vancouver Tuesday night. Left Wing Bryan Bickell could miss the remainder of the playoffs, no longer how long they last, but definitely the first-round series finale and whatever else could be immediately beyond.

"Bryan Bickell underwent surgery with our hand surgeon to repair a tendon lacerated during Game 2 of the Western Cnbference Quarterfinals," said Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement. "While the surgery was anticipated since the injury occurred, Bryan wanted to play before time ran out to complete the procedure appropriately. We anticipate a full recovery in approximately six to eight weeks."

Bickell had two goals in helping the team rally over the last three games, opening the scoring in Games Four and Six. He missed Game 3 after Canucks defenseman Sami Salo accidentally cut him near his wrist after a fall near the Blackhawks bench in Game 2.

Joel Quenneville did announce that Tomas Kopecky was (unlike for Game Five) on this trip and "progressing" from his upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the series opener, raising hope he might be available if the Hawks become the first 8th seed to rally from a 3-0 series deficit to beat a top seed.

But first things, first. The defending champs claim they're not spending much time worrying about who starts in goal for Vancouver Tuesday night, even if Cory Schneider was helped off the ice with only muscle cramping, and not anything more serious.

This will be the first Game 7 in Blackhawks history since 1995, when Denis Savard and company rallied from a 2-0 first-round deficit to defeat Toronto. The only players on the current roster who've played in playoff Game 7's are Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, and Marty Turco. Quenneville coached in three of them in St. Louis.

While Jonathan Toews may be having a quiet offensive series, Quenneville noted that he's been neutralized - and is neutralizing - 41-goal scorer Ryan Kesler, who's expected to be a Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) finalist this week. Each center's been held to no goals and three assists.

There are some interesting things to note about the new faces on each side as this series has progressed. Aside from the injured Manny Malhotra, Canucks GM Mike Gillis added Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, and Raffi Torres. Torres' hit on Brent Seabrook seems to have worked in reverse against his team. Ballard has been a healthy scratch the past two games. Hamhuis pushed Dave Bolland's head into the glass in Game 5, then got his come-uppance from Bolland behind the net Sunday night, setting up the first goal. Then he set up the third by tripping Michael Frolik, leading to his penalty shot.

On the Blackhawks' side, Frolik has two goals, five points and a plus-5 rating. Ben Smith's scored three goals. Chris Campoli's a plus-3 after committing his worst mistake since being acquired at the trade deadline, with the turnover that led to Vancouver's second goal. His teammates would make it a lot less costly.

The Sedins have combined for 12 points through six games (they had 10 in the six games a year ago), but didn't have Bolland in their grill the first three games.

Since Bolland has again treated the Sedin Twins like a scratchy, uncomfortable sweater (a combined minus-13 since his Game Four return, while Bolland has been plus-6), here are some Vancouver-related quotes he left the media with at O'Hare Monday before the team's departure for Game Seven:

On if any thoughts about the Canucks' scenario has crossed his mind: "I don't think I wanna be in those shoes."

If this year's "wingmen" with him (Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell) form a better line than last year's (Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg): "This one."

Because it's the current one? "Yep."

On whether he knew it was Hamhuis retrieving the puck behind Vancouver's net (after being upset wih Hamhuis pushing his head into the glass in Game 5), leading to his big hit, and the Hawks' first goal, by Bickell: "I think I knew from the blue line, in. I thought it felt better than a goal, yep."

On whether he'd ever vacation in Vancouver: "I'm pretty sure if I'm gonna go there on vacation it wouldn't be nice. They probably wouldn't let me in once I got to the border. I think people do recognize me and it's not the nices things they (could) say."

On defending the Sedins: "I don't think I have a formula. It's not like math. I just have to go out there and play. They're just two ordinary players." (This after admitting he heard about the Canucks calling him "nothing special," and "not a game-changer" upon his return to the lineup for Game 4)

On Toews' two goals in the last 18 games: "After last night, 'Tazer' asked me when he was gonna score. I was like, 'I dunno, pretty soon, hopefully.' I guess I'll just keep scoring."

Possible rematch?

If the Blackhawks complete their first-round series comeback from a 3-0 deficit Tuesday night in Vancouver, they'd face San Jose in the second round.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner (and series-clincher) early in overtime after the Sharks killed off a 5-minute Kings power play that spanned the end of regulation into the start of overtime. After their 4-3 win, the Sharks await either the Blackhawks or Red Wings in round two.

By virtue of the Sharks being the highest remaining seed in the West by virtue of the 8th- (and lowest) seeded Hawks knocking off number-one seed Vancouver, it would set up a rematch of last spring's Western Conference Final a round earlier, highlighted by Hawks Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi opposing his heir, Crawford.

But first-things-first: the Blackhawks need to defeat the Canucks in Vancouver in Game 7 Tuesday night.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Resilient Wild make statement with comeback win over Blackhawks

Resilient Wild make statement with comeback win over Blackhawks

The Minnesota Wild have been chasing the Blackhawks for a long time.

They may not be so far away now.

After falling behind 2-0, the Wild scored three unanswered goals to beat the Blackhawks 3-2 at the United Center on Sunday night, and moved into sole possession of first place in the Central Division and Western Conference with 61 points, and still have four games in hand.

But even the Wild had to remind themselves that they're on the same playing surface as the Blackhawks, who eliminated Minnesota from the playoffs for three consecutive seasons from 2013-15, two of which were en route to Stanley Cup wins.

"We were pretty slow," coach Bruce Boudreau said about the team's first period. "I thought we were in a little bit of quick sand. We watched them play. I think it was a little bit more [we were] in awe. It's the Chicago Blackhawks, we're supposed to be in awe."

When they snapped out of it, the Wild looked like the team that has become one of the NHL's best, having now won 17 of their last 19 games.

Wild nemesis Patrick Kane scored the game's first two goals, but Minnesota displayed the type of resiliency every contender needs by evening it up in the second period thanks to a power-play goal by Nino Neiderreiter — his third goal in as many games — and Chris Stewart, who found the back of the net for the second consecutive contest.

Jason Pominville, who hadn't scored in 19 straight games, registered the game-winner early in the third period to cap off a Wild victory. It's Minnesota's eighth straight win against Chicago, a feat that even its coach can't explain.

"To beat this team eight times in a row is really something," Boudreau said. "I don't understand how you could do it. I wish I would have had that knowledge a couple years ago. But it's a new year and it's just one in a row right now."

That's one of many reasons why the Wild have been so successful this season. They're taking it one game at a time, and no matter what the score is, they continue to play the same way and have the belief they can win any game.

Less than 24 hours before their win over the Blackhawks, the Wild jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Dallas and squandered it in the third period. They found a way to bounce back, however, to take home a 5-4 victory in regulation.

So, how do they keep doing it?

"I don't know," Boudreau responded. "We're supposed to. If you want to win, you've got to come back, right? You got to believe. I think the biggest thing is believing you can, and that's the first step. If you don't believe you can come back, you never come back. If you always believe there's a chance, there's a good chance you can do it."

Said Stewart: "I just think we're a confident bunch. We believe in ourselves. We know we didn't get the start that we wanted, but we got one to crawl back in it and all this team needs is a little bit of life."

There's no better measuring stick than to beat a team in your division that's won three championships since 2010, and has been powerhouses in the West for nearly a decade.

And it's something the Wild hope — and believe — they're in the process of achieving.

"It's always a big rival," Neiderreiter said. "You always want to beat the Hawks. They won a few Stanley Cup in the past few years, and that's something we want to accomplish someday. To do that, we have to make sure we beat top teams like that."

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Start strong, finish fizzles

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Start strong, finish fizzles

Well, that weekend didn't go as planned.

The Blackhawks played a lot better on Sunday night but suffered the same fate as Friday, coming away with no points and losing first place in the Western Conference in their 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

Let's dispense with the frivolities. Here are Five Things to take away from the Blackhawks' loss to Minnesota.

1. Strong start. The Blackhawks needed to come out strong in this one, mainly because their Friday game against the Washington Capitals was so bad but also because the Wild were coming off a frenzied 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. The Blackhawks got the appropriate start, outshooting the Wild 14-8 and leading 1-0 on Patrick Kane's goal. Speaking of which… 

2. Kane with the great evening. The Blackhawks dressing seven defensemen meant one thing: Kane was probably going to get a lot of ice time. That he did, double-shifting with the second and fourth lines in the first period and giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead with first- and second-period goals. Kane finished with a career-high 12 shots on goal in 27:09 of ice time. "You know you're going to play a lot. I don't know if [27] minutes is that amount you want to be playing, but at the same time, you're not going to say no when he calls you to go out there too," Kane said.

3. The Wild respond in the second. Minnesota didn't have the best start but they regained momentum and erased a deficit in the second period. It's not that their chances were that much better than the Blackhawks – it was a fairly even period in every way, from shots on goal (16-15 Blackhawks) to overall play. But coach Joel Quenneville didn't like how the Blackhawks played on Nino Niederreiter or Chris Stewart's goals, calling the mistakes made on them, "cardinal sins."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

4. Quiet night for the top line. Outside of Marian Hossa, the Blackhawks' top line didn't do much on Sunday night. Hossa had two shots on goal. Jonathan Toews had none, as it was another too-quiet night for the Blackhawks' captain. 

5. Minnesota keeps the rivalry edge. Remember those three consecutive springs in which the Blackhawks dispatched the Wild? Well, the past two seasons may not be equal in payback terms but the Wild are nevertheless tilting the rivalry – at least in regular-season games – in their favor. The Wild won all five games last season and took the first of this season, as well. Minnesota made some good offseason moves, including acquiring Eric Staal in July. Full marks to the Wild: right now, they are the cream of the Western Conference crop.