Chicago Blackhawks get deserved loss to Wild 3-2 in OT - New York News

Blackhawks get deserved loss to Wild 3-2 in OT

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Sunday afternoon the Blackhawks fell to the Wild 3-2 in overtime.

Duncan Keith summed things up in a straight forward manner following Game 3. Keith commented Minnesota was the hungrier team and they deserved to win the game. Keith's remarks were spot on and now the Wild can even the best of seven series on Tuesday night.

The Hawks took the lead at 13:26 of the opening period and until then had a great start to the game. It's hard to know exactly what happened afterward but the Wild did show their desperation and executed an effective plan. Minnesota didn't do anything mysterious but they were able to use an aggressive forecheck and some physicality to control much of the action.

Although Corey Crawford would probably like to have a another chance to save the Jason Zucker shot that beat him short side in overtime he still played a great game. The Crawford haters always seem to be lurking but if he keeps playing as he has thus far there should be little criticism. Crawford has outplayed his counterpart Josh Harding in every match but that alone isn't always enough to win.

Maybe collectively players thought Game 3 was in the bag after scoring first, as many players seemed to check out afterwards. There were surges here and there but the Blackhawks couldn't dominant the action for stretches until late in the third period.

It's not the end of the world to lose to a desperate Wild team on their home ice but it was a missed opportunity to all but secure a round one victory. Blackhawk faithful can discount this outcome as long as a rebound effort is coming in Game 4. It shouldn't be overlooked, this is an injured Wild squad and they could get a few players back before long which should help their chances.

Defensively the Hawks looked loose and Crawford was the only reason the game got to overtime. Overall the third and fourth lines played most consistently. Patrick Kane had another good outing but the rest of the big name forwards had subpar performances.

The Wild appear almost afraid to crowd Kane and they have been giving him a lot of space. Possibly they think their best chance to control Kane is by trying to contain him and not by over committing. With the exception of Patrick Sharp the other top six forwards need to play with more of an edge and win individual battles.

If the Blackhawks need Crawford to be their best player, as he was on Sunday to win, trouble is around the corner. The Hawks are built to possess the puck and score goals and neither happened enough. Jonathan Toews hasn't been as sharp as needed and the same can be said for others. Rookie Brandon Saad looks like he needs to recharge his batteries.

Michal Handzus had his worst performance as a Blackhawk, every part of his game was poor. Handzus is usually reliable in the faceoff circle but in Game 3 he won only 31% of his draws. Before getting too down on Handzus, he is being slotted too high. At this point in his career Handzus is better suited for a fourth or possibly a third line role.

With center Dave Bolland out of action Handzus will be called on to play more minutes, it remains to be seen if he stays on the second line. Joel Quenneville shuffled lines in the late going and it appeared he tried to get Kane away from Handzus and used him with Toews. In Game 4, Andrew Shaw can be moved up to the second line, with Marcus Kruger or Handzus centering the third line. Shaw's line has been good so Quenneville may want to leave that group alone. Whatever Quenneville decides the top two lines need to be more dominant.

The way the winning goal came about was a snap shot of most of the game. The Wild did all the little things well and stayed determined.

After getting tripped up by Shaw, Matt Cullen was able to pass the puck while on his stomach. Cullen outfought Johnny Oduya and got the puck past a less than aware Viktor Stalberg. Rookie left wing Zucker got to the puck, turned and fired a laser to the short side to beat a surprised Crawford.

This loss could mark a needed wake-up call, at least that's what Hawk nation will be hoping.

Al's Shots

The Blackhawks power play continues to struggle.

It is possible to win the Stanley Cup without a better than average power play but on Sunday, a power play goal would have been very valuable. In this year's post season, with the man advantage the Hawks haven't created enough scoring chances and that is a concern.

If recent history is any indication the Blackhawks power play won't be their undoing.

In an April piece at Chicago Side.com, regular season power play percentages for Stanley Cup champions since 2008 were discussed.

Only the 2007-2008 Red Wings went on to win the Cup with a power play ranked in the top half of the NHL. This year the Hawks finished the regular season with the 19th ranked power play in the league.

I will be back on Wednesday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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