Home ice has been the advantage in this second round Western Conference series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.
After the Blackhawks took the first two games back in Chicago, the Wild erupted for a pair of wins in Minnesota. What was once a best-of-seven series is now just a best-of-three, as it shifts back to Chicago for Game 5 on Sunday.
The Wild once again held the high-octane offensive players of the Blackhawks in check for the most part, keeping Chicago to just 21 shots on goal in a 4-2 victory in Game 4 on Friday. The series is now tied up 2-2.
Ilya Bryzgalov was front and center for Minnesota in the win. Yes, he had one of his moments when he gave up a soft goal to Patrick Sharp in the opening period. The Blackhawks’ forward beat the Wild goalie through the legs with a wrist shot from near the bottom of the faceoff circle, getting Chicago onto the board.
But he was brilliant after that.
His biggest save came off Sharp in the second period. Bryzgalov kicked out the right pad on Sharp’s breakaway chance, maintaining his team’s one-goal lead at the time.
Jared Spurgeon, with his second goal of the evening, gave the Wild a two-goal lead early in the third period.
Chicago had its chances, but it could be argued the defending Stanley Cup champs didn’t test Bryzgalov enough. Friday’s game was the fourth of this series in which the Blackhawks were held to less than 25 shots on goal.
There was a scary moment in the second period, when Chicago forward Brandon Bollig ran Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard from behind into the end glass.
Bollig was assessed a minor penalty for boarding. As per Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, there was no update on Ballard following the game.
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.
The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.
(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)
Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)
You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:
It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.
Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:
Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).
If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.
You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.
The pain goes beyond that … literally so.
For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.
(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)
The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.
Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.
It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.
The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).
The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.
One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.