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Blackhawks Mon May 04 2015

Blackhawks Set Pace on Wild to Go Up 2-0

Chicago Blackhawks It was quite a long weekend of sports, especially for all those in the Chicagoland area. The NFL Draft kicked off Thursday in Draft Town, the Bulls dispatched the Bucks in grand fashion to move on to the second round of the NBA playoffs, The Cubs and Sox tried, the fastest two minutes in sports produced a thrilling finish in the 141st Kentucky Derby, and Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally got it on, albeit, in a rather lackluster display in the squared circle.

It was a legendary four days for sure, which undoubtedly produced a few hangovers and a neglected punch list. But capping it all off was the Hawks finally showing a little life on the defensive end and setting the pace against a quick Wild team, going up two games to none in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It seems like a whole season ago that Corey Crawford was pulled against the Nashville Predators -- twice -- in favor of Scott Darling. These things seem to work themselves out as Crawford found a way to settle in the crease and his team in front of him found a way to limit an onslaught of shots on goal.

Clearly it's still early, but the 2-0 advantage the Hawks took on the Wild, after a convincing 4-1 win at home Sunday evening, will help ease things heading into Minnesota. The same scenario occurred last season in the second round when the Hawks went into Minnesota up two games to none and came back home with the series tied.

What sets that series apart from this one is that the Wild were able to set the tone early by way of limiting movement up the middle of the ice. The Wild completely congested the passing lanes and switched up defensive looks that threw the Hawks off before finding a way to readjust.

The Hawks eventually beat the Wild in that series four games to two, but things looked rather bleak heading into Game 5, especially when coach Joel Quenneville's squad was outscored 8-2 in two games. The Hawks were getting beat by a defense that prevented it from doing what it does successfully: skate fast and pass in transition.

This season, or at least these last two games, the Hawks looked stronger and more confident against a steel trap in goal in Devan Dubnyk and a defense that played well against the Blues in the first round. Much of that is attributed to the shot attempts the Hawks took, which were unblocked (Fenwick-for) against that of the Wild.

According to Jen LC, who is a great Twitter follow for any and all things in advanced hockey stats (@RegressedPDO), and @war_on_ice, the Hawks FF% was 55.7 percent compared to that of the Wild, which was 44.3 percent -- that coming off of equal shots on goal for both teams at 31 a piece. That means clearer lanes towards Dubnyk by way of finding the open man on ice.

Another great sight for sore eyes is the Hawks' third line, which comprised of Antoinne Vermette, Teuvo Teraveinan and Patrick Sharp, who scored a goal in last night's contest off of a great backhanded pass, swatted by Teraveinan. That starts and ends with Vermette winning 69 percent (11 of 16) of his faceoffs in Game 2 and 79 percent (11 of 14) in Game 1.

If the Hawks are able to maintain this level of play, they should be able to take at least one of the next two games up in Minnesota. That won't be easy, especially with their crowd looking to blow the roof off the Xcel Energy Center, but doable if this type of play persists.

 
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