This is the kind of game us fans would call “frustrating” and maybe even “concerning.” The Blackhawks (Patrick Kane) led the Wild 2-0 early in the 2nd period, and seemed to be responding to their recent 6-0 loss at Washington quite well, until an Artem Anisimov tripping penalty turned into a Wild power play and eventual Nino Niederreiter goal at 6:23. At this point, the stagnant Chicago offense was in full effect, and simply unable to find the back of Devan Dubnyk’s net. Chris Stewart would tally another Wild goal at 11:00 when he fired a beauty of a shot past the short-side of Corey Crawford. The period ended 2-2, with the game’s momentum completely in the hands of Minnesota. The lone goal scored in the 3rd period occurred at 5:08 when Jason “Hasn’t Scored in Five Years” Pominville found the puck on his stick after a Marco Scandella slap shot missed the net to the left by ten feet, but Pominville made no mistake with this one. With Crawford not anticipating such a horrible initial shot and his defense nowhere to be found, Pominville put his team on top for the first time in the game, and that lead would hold. The Blackhawks had a few opportunities down the stretch to tie the contest up, but could not capitalize with an extra attacker or on a short power play in the last 30 seconds of the game. Chicago falls to 27-14-5 (59 points), and concedes the Central Division and Western Conference lead to Minnesota, who now sits atop the throne at 28-9-5 (61 points).
- Patrick Kane was exceptional tonight. In 27:09, Kane registered 2 goals and 12 shots on goal (career high). Minnesota (Ryan Suter) had trouble containing him, as most teams do, but his performance unfortunately was not enough to win the game.
- Artem Anisimov, who nearly missed the game due to illness, had 2 assists in 19:53 of ice time.
- The Blackhawks were only short-handed once during the game, though they did pay for it. The main takeaway is that penalties didn’t cost them the game tonight.
- Michal Rozsival and Trevor van Riemsdyk were about as bad as any defensive pairing all season. They were on-ice witnesses of the last two Minnesota goals, and provided close-to-nothing on the offensive end. Coach Joel Quenneville certainly has to pick his matchups in terms of when Rozsival should be allowed on the ice, since he is generally considered to be the team’s biggest liability. Playing him against the offensive-juggernaut Capitals and then against the speedy Wild leaves most fans scratching their heads.
- Corey Crawford had an off-night tonight, allowing 3 goals on 32 shots. Not his worst game ever, but he was in poor position for the Stewart goal and was MIA for the Pominville goal, though it’s hard to blame him too much for that one since his defense was on vacation. Most of Crawford’s off nights consist of him only allowing 3 or 4 goals, while other goaltenders’ ugly games can see totals upwards of 6 or 7. He’ll seemingly return to form in his next outing. We’ll call this a short-term ugly note.
- The Blackhawks had 35 shots on net, which by no means is a low total. The quality of their shots, however, were not so pretty. When facing one of the league’s best goalies like Dubnyk, you have to make him uncomfortable in his own crease with every shot attempt. The Blackhawks only had one or two A+ chances all night, and most of their shots fell in the C+ to B- range. Meanwhile, the top line of Hinostroza, Toews, and Hossa only registered 2 shots all night, with both coming from the eldest man on their line who seems to be showing signs of becoming ramshackle.
Overall, not the best performance we could have seen by Chicago after being dismantled in Washington on Friday. The Blackhawks need to wake up from their annual winter slumber, and hopefully by handing over the division lead, their veterans will respond. On Tuesday, the Blackhawks travel to Colorado with a meeting with the Avalanche (8:00 pm CST, NBCSN), who are not only a disaster in name, but on the ice as well (13-27-1). Keep your heads up Folks. It’s just Blackhawks tradition, right?
Photo credit: AP Photo/Matt Marton