The Chicago Blackhawks have a host of stars that compare with any NHL club. However, it's the depth on both sides of the puck that was on full display Friday night in the Blackhawks' Game 2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild.
Friday's 5-2 win gives Chicago a 2-0 series lead in its Western Conference quarterfinal with the Wild. It also served as further evidence that the Wild are getting more than they can handle with the waves of Blackhawks coming at them.
After Bryan Bickell and the third line sent the game-winner past Josh Harding in Game 1, Chicago again was the recipient of some solid play from its lower lines. Leading the way Friday was Michael Frolik, who has put in lunch pail-type effort all season long on the fourth line and on the penalty kill.
Frolik was Johnny On The Spot midway through the opening period, knocking in a rebound off an Andrew Shaw shot past Josh Harding to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. He scored again on a wrist shot to cap off a strong shorthanded rush up the ice just seconds into the middle frame.
The Wild were held scoreless on three power-play attempts on the night and gave up the shorty to boot. For playing just 10:48 in Game 2, Frolik had himself a productive evening.
The Blackhawks offense provided a good measure of defense, mostly by attacking the Minnesota zone and blistering Harding with 48 shots on goal. Seventeen first-period shots set the tone for the contest. Harding had another impressive outing, stopping 43 of the 47 shots he saw, but the action was too fast and furious in front of him.
Defensively, Joel Quenneville was able to roll out his pairings and watch as Minnesota struggled to generate any legitimate scoring opportunities in the first half of the game. Duncan Keith led the blueliners in ice time with 21:27 played, but Johnny Oduya brought up the rear with 18:06 of action. The balance displayed on the back end is going to pay off the deeper Chicago goes in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Bickell added an empty-net tally in the final seconds to tie him with Frolik and Patrick Sharp (who contributed a pair of third-period goals to the cause Friday) with the team lead with two playoff goals. Through two games, all four forward lines have hit for goals. Each defensive pairing has points through Game 2, with Brent Seabrook and Michal Roszival still looking to pick up their first points.
The action moves back to the Xcel Energy Center Sunday afternoon. The Blackhawks have a real chance to make this a very short series. However, beating the Wild in Minnesota will require more of the balanced effort Chicago has delivered in building its series advantage.