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.
Saturday’s been unkind to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and not just on the scoreboard (where it’s 3-0 early on against the Ottawa Senators).
The Maple Leafs lost Tyler Bozak to an apparent upper-body injury thanks to a questionable hit by Sens forward Mika Zibanejad.
You can judge that check (which drew a minor penalty for illegal check to the head) in the video above. Again, Bozak will not return to tonight’s game.
It’s unclear if Bozak will miss time beyond this contest.
Scary stuff on Saturday: multiple reporters (including the Maine Hockey Journal’s Chris Roy) note that Malcolm Subban was taken to a hospital after a puck struck his throat during warm-ups.
There’s no word yet on Subban’s condition beyond that he was taken away in an ambulance.
The AHL’s Providence Bruins seem like they’ve been left scrambling for a backup goalie in Subban’s absence.
Subban stated days ago that he’s taken some significant steps forward during the 2015-16 season.
The Ottawa Senators cannot pin all of their troubles on missing their No. 1 center, yet it probably feels like a huge relief to get him back.
After missing six games with his latest injury, Kyle Turris is in the lineup as the Senators take on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Again, it’s not all a matter of missing Turris, but the Senators went 1-5-0 during his six-game absence. They’ve really been falling since late December, to be honest.
Will Turris be enough to stop the bleeding? Perhaps to an extent, but the Senators are in for a serious battle if they hope to fight through the East bubble.
Times have been tough for Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers fans lately, even if they’ve been frustrating in different ways.
Saturday’s 5-1 Habs win highlights a few things, but the most tantalizing thought for those fans is that it’s likely that we’ll see more great things from P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid … sometimes against each other.
Perhaps this will be a confidence booster for Montreal. More than anything else, it directed attention to Subban, who’s quietly been absolutely fantastic for the floundering Canadiens.
Consider how much of an offensive burden he’s currently carrying:
From one current All-Star to someone who could be a perennial one: McDavid certainly seemed to grab Subban’s attention.
Then again, when you make moves like these, who won’t notice?
The Oilers did lose, mind you, so it’s not surprising that Todd McLellan mentioned that the team can’t depend upon McDavid for everything.
That said, the funny thing about that quote is that McDavid might just carry the Oilers for two decades, at least if health and other factors go the right way.
If that’s true, Subban vs. McDavid could be a fun matchup to watch a few times per season for a long, long time.