CHICAGO | The third straight time is not likely to be a charm today for the Blackhawks if it happens in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Wild.
Another sluggish mid-game dip in which the Hawks go back on their heels and allow the opponent to dramatically outplay and outshoot them, while emerging unscathed, isn’t likely to work.
Goalie Corey Crawford cannot be expected to be the bail-out guy again. That would be an inhuman. Nor could the Hawks automatically reverse course on a dime again after scoring a total of seven goals in the third period of the last two games.
In back-to-back contests at the United Center – Game 6 of the quarterfinals against the Blues last Sunday and Game 1 against the Wild Friday – the visitors outshot the Hawks by the exact same count, 17-3, in the second period.
Crawford stopped all 34 shots in those periods, including nearly eight minutes of power-play time by the Blues. He finally cracked a bit in the third period against the Wild, allowing a pair of goals that briefly tied the game.
While Patrick Kane jubilantly hollered “Showtime!” after his go-ahead goal against the Wild, captain Jonathan Toews had an entirely different message.
“Let’s wake the (bleep) up,” Toews appeared to holler at his bench twice before the second intermission.
Coach Joel Quenneville obviously spent the off-day Saturday strategizing how to prevent a second repeat.
“I didn’t mind our first period,” Quenneville said, “but the second period there was tilted towards our end, kind of like our last game against St. Louis. Got through some kills and we certainly lost the momentum in the game.”
His players don’t need a lecture. They realize improvements today are mandatory.
“I think we can play a little bit better,” Kane said. “We had a little time off, so sometimes you rest and relax a little bit, and come back and don’t have the best effort you should…We’ve got to be better in Game 2.”
Linemate Patrick Sharp gave a lot of credit to the Wild.
“They made their push,” he said. “2-2 in the third period, it’s anybody’s game, but I liked the way we responded once the game was tied. I thought we played pretty good hockey down the stretch in the third.
“That’s something to learn going forward in the series, that Minnesota’s a great team and they’re going to make it tough on us. It’s going to be a heck of a series.
The Wild certainly were not discouraged by their effort.
“For the most part, I liked how we played,” said forward Zach Parise. “I think we had some good jump. We had a lot of good in-zone time, a lot of good rush chances. We didn’t capitalize when we needed to and they scored on their power plays and we didn’t. I think that was the difference right there, the special teams.”
The Hawks have been boosted by their special teams. They have killed off 30 out of 32 Blues and Wild power plays so far.
Quenneville will have to do more of his accustomed playoff line juggling if gritty center Andrew Shaw can’t play today. Shaw was classified as “questionable” by Quenneville on Saturday after suffering a lower-body injury after being hit by Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner in the first period Friday.
"If he's gonna miss any time, it's going to take a heck of a lot to keep that guy down," Toews said. "But that's something we can be conscious of, what (Shaw) brings to the table with his physicality and how he never gives up on plays and is determined."
Winger Kris Versteeg should return for Game 2 after being a late scratch for Game 1. Quenneville said Versteeg was ill Friday.