The Chicago Blackhawks should have a clear purpose for Game 2 of their Western Conference second-round tilt against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. That would be retaining home-ice advantage and taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
For that to happen, the 'Hawks will need to put together a better effort than they did Friday night.
Chicago could count on another dominating performance by Corey Crawford in goal. The Blackhawks could wait for Patrick Kane to put on a clinic and pull out another win at the United Center. However, Chicago will be hard-pressed to win Game 2 if they allow the Wild to control the action as they did in most of Game 1.
Minnesota out-shot the Blackhawks 32-22 Friday night. The second period saw the Wild dominate play to the tune of a 17-3 edge in shots. Crawford and an opportunistic power play managed to help Chicago build a 2-0 lead that the hard-working visiting squad erased in the first seven minutes of the third period.
Kane's spectacular run through Minnesota's defense midway through the third sparked what turned out to be a 5-2 victory. At first glance, that seems like an impressive result. Watching the full 60 minutes of action leaves quite a different impression.
Minnesota, fresh off a Game 7 win in Colorado, took the game to the well-rested 'Hawks and were in a position to snatch the series opener from Chicago on Friday night. If the Wild didn't have the full attention of coach Joel Quenneville's club, they should now.
Chicago should still be the fresher team entering play on Sunday. The Wild are playing their sixth game in the last 11 days. If the 'Hawks expected tired legs from their opponents in the final 20 minutes on Friday, they were surprised with a pair of Minnesota goals.
Could the Wild come out flat Sunday after a deflating loss? Possibly, but Chicago better not count on a weak showing from coach Mike Yeo's charges.
For the 'Hawks, this means a more complete game on Sunday. A little more urgency on line changes would be a great start.
Andrew Shaw is going to be a possible scratch for Game 2 after Clayton Stoner's hit resulted in a lower body injury. Stoner was a very physical presence on Friday and was credited with a goal in the Wild's third-period comeback.
The 'Hawks could elect to respond to Stoner's tactics. I would rather see Chicago make Stoner defend, taking advantage of scoring chances he is likely to offer.
Kris Versteeg, who sat out Game 1 due to illness, could be back in the lineup on Sunday. He could replace rookie Joakim Nordstrom or Shaw if he can't go. Quenneville could elect to dress Jeremy Morin or Peter Regin for the first time this postseason.
If Versteeg was only out because he was sick, it seems likely Quenneville will go with him. If Versteeg is still under the weather, we could see a new face in the lineup.
Minnesota's best chance to take a game in Chicago this weekend may have come back on Friday. If Chicago needed to shake off any rust incurred over its six-day layoff, it should have happened in Game 1. We have every reason to expect a more complete game from the 'Hawks on Sunday.
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