The Blackhawks didn’t create many great offensive chances after 20 minutes, but that wasn’t unexpected. They knew coming into the second-round series that there would be times against the Wild when goals would be difficult to come by.
What mattered to the Blackhawks was that their defense and goaltending were on point. If that remained the case, the Blackhawks were confident their opportunity to strike would eventually come. Patience continued to be the key word.
The Blackhawks then practiced what they preached. The Wild gave them two substantial openings in the second period, and the Blackhawks pounced on them. Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews combined for a shorthanded goal, and Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane connected for a second goal. Add in solid defensive play, a 30-save performance by Corey Crawford and two more goals, and the Blackhawks put together a formidable 4-1 victory to take a 2-0 series lead.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had no trouble ranking the win compared to his team's previous five in these playoffs.
“I think it was our best game all the way around,” Quenneville said. “I thought we had real good pace and energy right off the offset and good pace to our game, defensively solid. I thought all the lines were consistently, had a lot of offensive zone time, puck possession. Played the right way.”
The Blackhawks had been mounting wins throughout the playoffs, but the style of those victories hadn’t made them proud. Their wins had been marred by inconsistencies, especially defensive ones. But their win Sunday was a product of consistency from start to finish.
Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp thought speed factored into that.
“I thought we played a faster game, quicker, moving the puck, quicker making plays,” Sharp said. “When you do that, guys without the puck can anticipate where it’s going, and your team can play that much faster."
The Blackhawks’ play might have been faster, but they weren’t worried about the speed of their goals. They knew scoring 1 minute, 15 seconds into Game 1 wouldn’t be the norm in the series.
“It’s the way it’s going to be, especially against a team like this,” Kane said. “I don’t think you’re going to get too many chances against them. They clog up the middle pretty well, got a good goaltender. It’s one of those things you got to stay with it, not get frustrated. And if you play the right way, I think things will eventually kind of open up, whether we get them frustrated by playing good defense or our skill and speed take over.
“It’s something we’ve been stressing ever since we knew this was going to be our matchup. You can be patient against them, and hopefully you can turn good defense into offense. Obviously, on all three of our goals, we did a great job of turning the puck and getting it up and getting a chance off of it. We can stay patient off that and try to build those opportunities.”
Now the Blackhawks will look to build off their two home wins in Minnesota. They understand the series will only get harder there.
"They’re not going anywhere," Sharp said. "They’re a tough team to play against. You got to fight and claw for everything out there.”