Blackhawks fans, unite for what is to be a great game tonight vs. the Minnesota Wild. The 4th game of any series is usually a pivotal one. The Wild win tonight and it is “Even Steven”, heading back to Chi-town for a 6 game series at minimum. If your beloved Hawks win tonight, they have a great chance to close it off as they did last year against this same foe, in 5 games.
Blackhawks fans you should unite tonight because after a dismal 4-0 loss early in the week, they have the opportunity to show not just the diehard fans what Champions are made of, but hockey fans in general.
I have had many non-Hawk fans come up to me, commenting on how great they look. Many stating that they’re destined to head back to the Finals in 2014. These same people approached me after game #3 to see if the wheels had fallen off just as quickly as they were built on this playoff machine.
Well, my take on last game is this: the Blackhawks came out and didn’t realize they would be playing the 1995 New Jersey Devils. They attempted to combat the ghost of Jacques Lemaire (yes, I realize he’s not dead), when they exhausted all options, said “see ya in game 4″.
It was only near the end when the Wild were really sitting back were they able to get room to play their game a little. By then, it was too late.
So unite tonight with friends and fellow hockey fans for this one. I know, I will be in good company, gathering with some fellow Toronto Blackhawks (I wonder if me typing Toronto Blackhawks made Leafs fans a little excited there for a second) fans for, what should be a great test for the good guys. Enjoy the game!
* There were some questionable moves by Joel Quenneville for Tuesday’s game. The scratching of Nick Leddy left most scratching their heads. I was initially in favour, only because of how poorly he’s played in this series. Then after seeing how they mixed and matched the D pairings throughout the game, I admitted I was wrong. Q can’t put Brookbank and Rozsival out at the same time because of their lackluster speed. So the top 4 had to be split up from time to time. Expect him to be back with Rozsival (or Brookbank) tonight.
* The following stat is alarming and should signal why they will miss Andrew Shaw again for tonight’s game. The Blackhawks had only 5 players with hits last game (Keith – 3, Rozsival – 2, Bickell – 1, Smith – 1, Nordstrom -1), while the Wild had 12 players getting into the dirty areas and laying some checks. Cody McCormick led the team with 4 and with Matt Cooke returning tonight, they will be sure to remain just as physical.
* Players like Shaw cause an infectious ripple throughout the lineup. When he’s throwing his 180lb frame around, more are likely to follow. That’s why I think you may see Jeremy Morin inserted into the 4th line tonight.
* Q really tinkered with his lines in yesterday’s practice. Here’s how they looked: Bickell-Toews-Smith, Saad-Kruger-Kane, Sharp-Handzus-Hossa, Bollig-Nordstrom-Morin.
* My prediction with the above is that they will not finish this way at all. Bold, I know. I do see Handzus sliding down to the 4th line along with a Kane/Smith swap. Q does have some versatility though.
* Versteeg does not seem to be fitting in to any line these days. You have to love what he brings creatively to the table, but those turnovers will bury you in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see if Morin will steal some playing time away from him moving forward. Or will we see Peter Regin enter?
* Morin is clearly not one of Q’s favourites. However, even Q cannot deny he fits the playoff mold at 6 foot/200 lbs with a nose for the net and a gritty style. Then again, Jeremy might not even understand what a playoff mold is supposed to look like. Dating back to when he was 16, he’s only played in 20 OHL Playoff Games (he had 21 pts) and the 1 game this series in the NHL. That’s it! Yikes.
* As per @ChadGraff, here are the Wild’s new lines (including Matt Cooke): Niederreiter-Koivu-Coyle, Parise-Granlund-Pominville, Cooke-Haula-Fontaine, Heatley-Brodziak-McCormick.
* The Wild are getting contributions from everyone up and down their lineup. I’ve been especially impressed by Haula, Neiderreiter and Coyle. When guys like this are contributing, that decreases the pressure your star players have on them. You saw that with Parise and Granlund stepping up in game 3.
* The Blackhawks surrendered their first PP goal of the series in the final frame of Tuesday’s matchup. Although it didn’t really matter at that point (and the PP came off a El Nino dive), it could give Suter & Co. the life they need to make a difference moving forward. The Hawks best remedy would be to limit the amount of penalties. End of story.
* If you are in the Toronto/GTA area and want to meet up with some beauty Blackhawks fans, send me a direct message @tycam and I’ll give you the details. Here’s a pic from the last outing.
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.