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Blackhawks Mon May 06 2013

Must-Win Wild Cut Hawks Lead In Half

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville and his players have said it all along about the Minnesota Wild: they're a tough team who shouldn't be taken lightly in the playoffs. And while the rest of Hawks nation rolled its eyes at the comment, the truth is, the coach was right about the Hawks' first-round opponent.

All signs pointed to the Hawks sweeping its way through a team which backed its way into the playoffs and suddenly had lost its starting goalie in Niklas Backstrom before the puck dropped in Game 1. The series suddenly had become laughable, but that's why they play the games.

Game 3 looked like another game en route to a series sweep for the Hawks, especially with Johnny Oduya's goal coming early in the contest. But steady defense from the Wild provided a tempo which the Hawks were unable to overcome.

Not to mention, the overall defensive strategy from the Wild seemed to be working: shut down Jonathan Toews. The captain has yet to record a point these last three games, and while his verbal leadership might exist on and off the ice, his scoring presence needs to show up. Who knows, maybe he's still baffled over the Susannah Collins firing.

The point is, it's one thing if Oduya scores a goal, but Toews has a way of scoring a goal that can break the back of a team and, virtually take the air out of an opposing team's stadium. The Hawks' record when he does score? 13-2-2. A Toews goal yesterday could have been all the firepower the Hawks needed to steal one on the road.

Plus, let's not forget that this Wild team has nothing to lose. Their backs are against the wall, and they're familiar with the recent trend of eighth-seeded nobodies shocking the hockey world and making a drive to the Cup. Look no further than last year's LA Kings, who got past the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks in the first round.

While Crawford was the losing netminder, he shouldn't be to blame for this loss. He played very well in Games 1 and 2, and looked very well in yesterday's affair, albeit, with the loss. Oduya and Michal Rozsival's turnover in their own zone didn't help matters. Let's just say this now: the Hawks could very well be down two games to one if it weren't for Crawford's play.

The Hawks are more than likely going to win the series, and should be able to rebound in Game 4 tomorrow night to come back home with a commanding 3-1 series lead. But it could very well be a turning point for the Wild, as winning one game can build confidence - winning two games against a team like the Hawks could prove to be very dangerous.

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