By Chris Emma-
ST. PAUL, Minn. (CBS) — With every face-off in Game 3 on Tuesday night, the Wild showed the look of a desperate team.
Early on, Minnesota looked to maximize its home-ice advantage by playing with every ounce of effort against Chicago. Toward the end, the Wild maintained that level of energy, knowing one goal would tie the game and change the series.
Yet, the Blackhawks maintained their disciplined style and weathered the Wild storm. With that, Chicago earned a 1-0 win, took a 3-0 series lead and can sweep on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.
Game 4 awaits on Thursday in St. Paul. But before that, let’s hit the refresh button with some thoughts.
1.) An appreciation for Patrick Kane
How does a puck-possession team beat a foe that plays such sound defense? All it takes is the right opportunity.
The Blackhawks went to the power plate toward the tail end of the first period and seemed to be in trouble when Patrick Sharp couldn’t keep the puck in the offensive zone. It went all the way down to Corey Crawford’s end. From there, Patrick Kane was ready.
Kane anticipated the play, took off from the circle in the defensive end, skated at a high speed to get ahead of the unexpecting Minnesota defense and found himself on an island with Devan Dubnyk. Then, Kane used one of his greatest weapons, something that’s underappreciated in his tremendous game.
Coach Joel Quenneville pointed to it after the game. When the puck comes off Kane’s stick, there’s no telling where it’s going. He doesn’t pick a spot based off comfort, he keeps it unpredictable.
“He’s got a hot stick,” Quenneville said. “He’s dangerous.”
There are few like Kane.
2.) Minnesota is done
The Wild put so much into Game 3 and still came up short. This is a deficit that won’t be overcome.
Minnesota already had steep odds to beat Chicago, and falling behind 2-0 at the United Center put the Wild in a troubling spot. With that came desperation mode Tuesday night. This was a team that poured everything it had into one game.
“We know what we’re up against,” Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. “I’m not going to come up here and give a big rah-rah speech We’ve got to win a game. It’s as simple as that.”
Yeo appeared to be a broken man after this loss. His players didn’t have much composure left, either. Wild star Zach Parise broke multiple sticks slamming them against the boards.
The Wild fought fought so hard for this game but fell short of that win. Losses like these take a toll.
3.) Matchup doesn’t favor the Wild
On paper, Minnesota was supposed to be a difficult matchup for the Blackhawks. The Wild pride themselves on defensive positioning, taking away the center of the ice and letting Devan Dubnyk do the rest.
The Blackhawks’ skill was supposed to be stymied, and the Wild were expected to be more of a factor in this series. Of course, that was just on paper.
What makes Chicago such a terrific team is its ability to counter its opposition. The Blackhawks can match with an adjusted style of play, whether it’s with line changes, matchups or a revamped strategy. This is also why Quenneville is one of the game’s coaching greats.
This series has seen Chicago match Minnesota’s dry, defensive style by winning puck possession, being even more disciplined than the Wild, then picking the right opportunity to attack with such sensational skill. Kane’s goal was classic “Showtime” offense — but also the lone offensive highlight from the game. Chicago stuck to its strategy and won by a 1-0 margin.
Patience and careful puck care has made Crawford a better goaltender, too. He’s not under siege like the Nashville series. Crawford has come up with the big saves when needed, but the Blackhawks have just played better in front of the crease.
Meanwhile, Minnesota can’t become this high-flying, physical team overnight. The Wild are built for a one style of play, and the Blackhawks can be chameleons.
Now, Chicago is one win away from the conference finals.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.