By Brad Vandenberk
Leaving Minnesota with the series tied at 2 was not part of plan A in this second round match up. The Wild showed their talent using their speed and forecheck to trouble the Hawks and 2 loses were the result. They took it to the Hawks out shooting them in two games holding the Hawks to less than 20 shots per game.
Matt Cooke returned for game 4 and gave the Hawks a lot of problems as he was involved on 2 of the Wilds 4 goals. The Hawks depth is being challenged and the employees needed to come to work Sunday night in Chicago.
Don’t get me wrong, the stars or core of this team also needs to pull up their sleeves and not allow the Wild to possess the puck. Brandon Bollig was reprimanded for his hit on Keith Ballard, being suspended for 2 games. Keith Ballard and Matt Moulson did not travel with the team to the windy city. Andrew Shaw did not dress for his 4th straight game and has yet to begin skating. Michael Rozsival was also sitting out. Sheldon Brookbank comes back into the line up and so does Kris Versteeg. Peter Regin will see his first playoff game this season with Chicago. This forced Coach Q to mix up his lines once again. The experience that the Hawks have needs to stand tall at the UC for the home team to have a chance moving into game 6 in Minny where the Wild have yet to lose.
Corey Crawford had a huge bounce back in the St Louis series and is looking to mimic that in game 5. Ilya Bryzgalov remained in the visitors net for his 5th straight start.
Bickell Toews Hossa Keith Seabrook
Sharp Handzus Kane Oduya Hjalmarsson
Saad Regin Versteeg Leddy Brookbank
Nordstrom Kruger Smith
The Wild open the game with pressure on Crawford. Charlie Coyle tests him early. Just 29 seconds in, Brent Seabrook takes out the skates of Nino Niederreiter and gets called for tripping. Crawford makes a point blank save on Zach Parise. Mikael Granlund does ring one off the post and the Hawks continue their strong penalty kill. Even Michal Handzus gets a shot handed chance to score. Cook levels Patrick Kane in the neutral zone. Jonathan Toews finds a wide open Niklas Hjalmarsson who gets robbed by a Bryzgalov glove save. Handzus almost mirrors his goal in game 4 tipping one on Bryzer who makes the save on the re direct. The Hawks start to gain some consistent zone time from the top lines in Chicago. During a delayed penalty call on the Wild, The Hawks held the puck for almost 40 seconds before the Wild could touch it to stop play. This led to the Hawks first power play with Clayton Stoner heading off for hooking Versteeg. This power play wasn’t memorable by any means. The Hawks have trouble entering the zone causing them to run into each other.
After the Wild kill the penalty they push back giving the Hawks trouble in their zone. Finally Erik Haula picks up a puck in his own zone after 3 Hawks watched their teammate fire a puck deep. He flies from end to end past Kane, Duncan Keith and finally Seabrook tapping his own rebound out of the air giving the Wild the lead 1-0 with 3:27 left in the period.
Bryan Bickell attempts a wrap around and it slides right through the crease uncontested by any near Hawk. They get out of the period down one and being outshot 8-6.
The Wild continue to come at the Hawks with Niederreiter getting another attempt on Crawford. Brandon Saad at the other end flies in with Bryzgalov making the save. Marian Hossa tries to beat 3 Wild players working his way to the net. At the 15:23 mark of the middle frame, Coach Q switches his lines. Toews is with Patrick Sharp and Hossa. Handzus has Kane and Saad. And Regin’s play promoted him to more ice time with Bickell and Versteeg. You can sense the Hawks about to break open. Sharp tries to send one in the top corner but Bryzer blockers it out. Bickell breaks over the blue line using his speed. The Marcus Kruger, Smith and Joakim Nordstrom line maintain zone time and no one can knock home a great cross crease pass by Kruger. Regin comes from nowhere and enters the zone with an almost breakaway on Bryzgalov. Jonas Brodin hooks Regin and the Hawks get their second power play of the game.
Just when you think this attempt was going for a loss, Sharp enters the zone and finds Kane. He walks to the middle, fires a shot, and big Bickell tips it off his leg and pass Bryzer igniting the UC fans 1-1.
The Hawks begin to surpass the Wild in the shots on net department. Even Saad tries to pass a puck from his knees in front of the net off a Handzus faceoff win. At this stage the next goal could come off a silly bounce. It almost happens when Coyle has a puck ricochet off his foot fooling Bryzgalov only for a quick second has he makes the save. The fourth line creates an issue for the Wild with their speedy forecheck. As time expires, Toews gets one more burst toward the net. The period ends with the score still tied and the Hawks outshooting the visitors 21-14.
The Wild continue to cause problems in the Hawks defensive zone. Kyle Brodziak steels the puck twice from Kane and then from Saad but Crawford keeps the puck out. Niederreiter breaks in with speed on Crawford but can’t get the shot off.
Toews, Hossa and Sharp head the other way and make the Wild pay. The big 3 keep the puck deep in the zone. Sharp puts a shot on net and Hossa sends the rebound toward the net. Although Ryan Suter gloves the puck out it lands at Toews feet and the captain goes from skate to stick and over the goal line giving the Hawks their first lead of the game with 15:27 remaining.
Crawford begins to show his aggressive play coming out to see pucks instead of fight off pucks. He flashes his leather on a Suter point shot fighting through a screen. Kane tries to find an open Saad after pulling his patented spin-o-rama. Regin continues his strong play grabbing pucks behind the net and finding open wingers. Considering he has yet to play in these playoffs he looked really good. The Wild call a timeout with 2:17 on the clock to try and draw up a play. Bryzgalov heads to the bench. The Wild can’t keep the puck in and Bryzer is forced back into the net. The nail biting began when the Wild pull their goalie once again. Hossa tries to break out on an empty net but fumbles the puck. The Wild head the other way and pile up on Crawford trying anything to get it passed the goal line. The clock ticks down and the Hawks take game 5, 2-1 taking a 3 -2 series lead.
-Hawks and Wild skate to a 28-28 total for shots on net.
-Hawks were 1/2 on the power play with the Wild going 0/1
-Toews went 12/20 in the faceoff dot, Handzus 12/20, Regin 5/9, Kruger 3/6.
-Keith led all Hawks in TOI with 22:52, next was Hjalmarsson 20:48.
-Toews scores his franchise leading 10 game winning goal in the playoffs.
-Sharp led all Hawks with 2 assists, Bickell and Toews with 1 goal each, Hossa and Kane with 1 assist each.
-Hawks now travel to St Paul Minnesota on Tuesday to try and put and end to this series and move onto the Western Conference final.