The Chicago Blackhawks weren't able to put together the flashy performance that fans like to see in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night. The 'Hawks had to settle for a grind-it-out effort that saw them put up two sets of numbers that everyone can enjoy.
- 3-0. That was the final score at the Xcel Energy Center.
- 3-1. That is Chicago's series advantage after four games.
Actually, you could easily term the arena the Xcel Center after 60 minutes of hockey Tuesday. The Blackhawks took all the energy out of the building by taking everything the Wild could dish out and potting three well-earned goals to take command of the series as it heads back to Chicago.
Corey Crawford pitched a shutout, stopping all 25 shots fired his way. The 'Hawks penalty kill unit, led by Michael Frolik and Marcus Kruger, blanked Minnesota in six attempts.
Many of Chicago's infractions were a result of trying to match the Wild's physical tactics. The defense in front of Crawford was able to neutralize Minnesota even when shorthanded.
Each goal came as a result of Tuesday's defensive prowess and willingness to get dirty in the corners. Marian Hossa's first-period steal of a Mikko Koivu pass attempt led to Michal Handzus getting a shot to the net. From there, Patrick Sharp notched the greasiest of goals when the puck went off his knee and past Josh Harding.
Sharp employed some defensive smarts in the second period. Sneaking over the Minnesota blue line and into neutral ice, he picked off a pass made by Zach Parise. Sharp looped back into the Wild zone and sniped home goal number two past Darcy Kuemper, who relieved the injured Harding at the intermission.
The third line put the game away midway through the third, when Andrew Shaw delivered a hit on the boards to Justin Falk that allowed Bryan Bickell to dig the puck out and take it to the right corner. Bickell sealed the contest with an odd-angle wrist shot.
There was nothing spectacular about any of the goals. Just converted opportunities that came out of defense and hard work. Gritty, honest playoff hockey that is heartening to watch.
Despite the great speed and scoring potential of the Blackhawks, defense and dirty goals win in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Minnesota employed a lot of toughness in pulling out its Game 3 overtime win. The 'Hawks took everything the Wild could give them in terms of physical warfare. Chicago came out with a win that may not have been pretty but may have been its best effort of the series.
The Blackhawks took some huge checks (Brent Seabrook is still probably feeling a few of them), eventually countered with some chippy play and won the game on the scoreboard. With San Jose looming as a potential semifinal matchup if the 'Hawks advance, it is nice to see that Chicago can overcome when it isn't allowed to skate freely to the net.