Jonathan Toews celebrates his goal against Minnesota on Sunday in Game… (Scott Strazzante / Chicago…)
It was useless for Minnesota to resist.
The Blackhawks, with legitimate delusions of Stanley Cup grandeur, have a 2-0 lead in their playoff series against Minnesota after a 4-1 win Sunday at the United Center.
Maybe it was the force—Sunday was May the 4th, aka "Star Wars Day"—that propelled the Hawks to victory. They looked shaky at times but overwhelmed Minnesota when they had to, scoring two goals in the third period to put the game out of reach.
"They're a patient team and they play well defensively, and sometimes when they do that you get frustrated," Hawks forward Brandon Saad said. "Just sticking to your game plan and keep bringing the pace and playing well, it's just something you've gotta do consistently."
Of course, you could point to the Hawks' abundance of talent and experience as the keys to their success. That might be the simplest explanation for why the Hawks have now won six straight postseason games.
The series switches to Minnesota on Tuesday for Game 3, and so far in the playoffs the Wild are like the determined Skywalker family: not to be counted out. This is the same team that recovered from a 2-0 hole to win their first-round series against favored Colorado.
"We have to put that in our heads that we can still come back," Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. "We’ve done it before. And that’s it."
Well, almost. We're going to keep this Star Wars theme going a little while longer.
Cody McCormick = Darth Vader
Clearly the villain of this game. First McCormick charged right through Jeremy Morin, practically dumping the Hawks forward into the Wild bench. Then he made the UC temporarily miserable by cutting the Hawks' lead to 2-1 in the third period.
Jonathan Toews = Obi-Wan Kenobi
Is this guy ever going to lighten up? Actually, a better reason to compare the Hawks' all-business captain to the Skywalkers' mentor is because both are masters of their weapon of choice. Toews followed up a shot on a Marian Hossa breakaway by swatting in the rebound to put the Hawks up 1-0. Not as easy as it looks.
Corey Crawford = R2-D2
Let's see. Who's always getting knocked around, saving his team from disaster and not always getting credit for it? That's the Hawks goaltender in a nutshell. Crawford made "only" 18 saves Sunday, but he was under duress from the Wild for about two-thirds of the game.
Quotable: "We talked about it, shutting [the Wild] down, keep playing hard and keep playing the way we can and not sitting back. Sometimes teams create chances and are able to muster up some plays. They made a great play on us on their goal, but we just stuck with it."
Bryan Bickell = Han Solo
What can we say, the Blackhawks forward has his swagger back. Bickell has been outstanding in the playoffs the past two seasons and seems to be able to blast his way out of any situation. Moments after rattling one off the goal post Sunday, he fired one past Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to make it 3-1 Blackhawks. He also had a pair of assists.
Quotable: "We're being very predictable as line mates and that's what makes him fun to play with right now. He's doing a good job checking that [Zach] Parise line regardless of who he's playing with and we've gotta continue that."
Michal Handzus = Yoda
You might think we're picking on the 37-year-old Handzus' age (Yoda was 900 when he died, remember). And you'd be partly right. Yet the veteran also knows how to pick his spots when expending serious energy. He won six faceoffs and was credited with one hit Sunday; the "old man" has still got it.
Brandon Saad = Chewbacca
Like the famous wookie, Saad is known for his signature fur. Er, hair. The mullet and racing stripes were in full effect Sunday, as Saad scored his first two goals of the 2014 playoffs. Raaaaaawwwwwwwr!
"It's easy to talk about, to keep battling through it. But to finally get one in, it feels good. You've gotta keep rolling now."
Clayton Stoner = Jar Jar Binks
The Minnesota defenseman has proved to be really, really annoying in the first two games of this series. In Game 1, he clocked Andrew Shaw, knocking him out of the game. And early in Game 2, Stoner served a penalty for cross-checking Brandon Saad after the whistle. Appropriately enough, it appeared Stoner did it because Saad was laughing at him.
Niklas Hjalmarsson = C-3PO
You just feel sorry for the punishment the guy takes, game after game. The Hawks' leading shot blocker was credited for four more Sunday, including one off the neck. True to form though, Hjalmarsson didn’t miss a shift.
Quotable: "He's a warrior. That's an unusual place to get hit for him, but very rarely do we see him miss a shift after a big block. It's one thing to do whatever you can to keep the puck away from the net, but he's special in that area."
--Coach Joel Quenneville.
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