Author: Ryan Dadoun

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild - Game Four

Sweep leaves Wild feeling ‘sick’

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“You almost needed two pucks in that series. We’ve come a long way since then.”

That was Zach Parise comparing the Minnesota’s 2013 first round loss to the Blackhawks to this year, per the Star Tribune. He said that just before Minnesota’s latest series against Chicago began.

In the end, Minnesota was not only eliminated by Chicago for the third straight year, but also suffered the indignity of being swept.

“Didn’t do nearly enough. Don’t know how else to characterize it. It’s tough to dissect it right now.”

That was Parise tonight, per the Wild’s Twitter feed. And that’s one of more subdued comments from the Wild.

“I’m sick. It’s a sick feeling,” Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk told ESPN’s Joe McDonald.

“It’s a bad dream,” defenseman Ryan Suter said.

On the one hand, the fact that Minnesota even made the playoffs this year is an accomplishment given its rocky start and beating the St. Louis Blues in the first round was no small feat either. At the same time, when the Wild signed Parise and Suter to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts, it was with the hope that would help turn them into serious Stanley Cup contenders. It was reasonable to assume that it would take time to build around them, especially seeing as the Wild still had a fair number of promising young players working their way up, but they’re three years in at this point.

“Right now we’re a good team and we have to find a way to be the best team,” Wild coach Mike Yeo told the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff.

Suter is 30 years old while Parise will turn 31 in July and in the young man’s NHL, that’s something worth keeping in mind, especially because their contracts are relics of the old CBA era. Parise and Suter’s deals are so long because it makes their annual cap hit more manageable early on, but that hit has the potential to look bad as they age and potentially play well below the roughly $7.5-million annual level. In other words, they were made to be beneficial in the short and mid-term, but had the potential to be significantly detrimental in the long-term.

That’s not to suggest that the Wild are already fading into the sunset, but they do have a specific window of opportunity with them and with each failed campaign, it’s getting smaller.

“We’re trying to figure it out,” Suter said. “We need to look at ourselves in the mirror.”

Despite stunning Wild finish, ‘Hawks eliminate them for third straight year

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The Minnesota Wild went into this series hoping this year would be different. After being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs, Minnesota certainly seemed to be in a better position.

The Wild finished the season with a 28-9-3 run. They beat the Central Division winning St. Louis Blues in six games. They had more experience this time around. They weren’t dealing with goaltending injuries. Surely this year would be different.

No.

Chicago forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp played at their typical high level while goaltender Corey Crawford successfully put his rough first round behind him. At the other end of the ice Devan Dubnyk, who got a Vezina Trophy nomination off the strength of his superb second half in 2014-15, couldn’t consistently hold his own against the Blackhawks.

In a last gasp, the Wild scored two goals in the final three minutes of play, but it was too late as their season ended with a 4-3 loss to Chicago. In the end, Marian Hossa’s shorthanded goal on an empty net proved to be the winner. Before that, Kane provided the Blackhawks with a key insurance goal midway through the third period:

Chicago has become the first team to eliminate the same opponent in three consecutive years since Toronto did that to Ottawa in 2000-02, per the NHL Communications Department.

This also means that the Blackhawks have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the fifth time in seven years. That’s a remarkable stretch of playoff success, especially in the salary cap era.

Questions remain for Chicago going forward, not the least of which is what its defense will look like if Michal Rozsival misses a lengthy period of time due to what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. For now though, Chicago can take a breather as it waits to see who will emerge victorious from the series between Calgary and Anaheim.

For a playoff overview and all tonight’s biggest stories, click here.

Video: Rozsival exits game with potentially serious injury

Rozsival injury
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The Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to advance to the Western Conference Final with a win tonight and they got off to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Brent Seabrook and Andrew Shaw. However, they suffered a potentially serious setback as defenseman Michal Rozsival left the game with what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury.

He fell awkwardly and had to be helped off the ice. You can see the unfortunate incident below:

Chicago hasn’t provided an update yet, so it’s possible that this is a case where the injury isn’t as bad as it initially seems. If he can’t return to the game though — and it would be surprising if he does — then Chicago will need to rely much more on Kimmo Timonen. The 40-year-old blueliner has been averaging 9:31 minutes per game in the playoffs and logged a mere 5:44 minutes on Tuesday.

Update: As expected, Chicago announced that he won’t return tonight.

Stamkos: ‘We got what was coming’

Steven Stamkos
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Tampa Bay still has a 3-1 lead in their second round series against the Montreal Canadiens even after Montreal’s 6-2 win tonight, but the Lightning have cause for concern.

Obviously Montreal’s a great team with Carey Price between the pipes and P.K. Subban leading the defense, but that’s not the only consideration. The Lightning barely won in the first and third games of this series and in the case of the latter, it wasn’t their best work. So while Tampa Bay came into the night with a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Final, this series hadn’t been nearly as one-sided as the 3-0 lead suggested.

“We got what was coming,” Stamkos told Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith.

“We just have to be better…We’re not good enough the last couple games,” he added, per Lightning.nhl.com’s Bryan Burns.

Stamkos’ play in particular remains troubling for the Lightning. To be fair, he’s on a three-game point streak and it’s not like he’s the reason the Lightning lost Thursday night. At the same time, he hasn’t recorded a shot on goal in the last two games of this series. Combine that with the fact that he’s only scored one goal in the 2015 playoffs and it becomes fair to say that more is expected from him.

Tampa Bay will get another shot to end this series on Saturday. The Canadiens clearly won’t go down quietly though, so unless the Lightning step up their game, they might run into problems.

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup Playoff action

Chicago Blackhawks v Minnesota Wild - Game Three
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This could be the last night of Minnesota and Montreal’s playoff runs as the Blackhawks and Lightning have a 3-0 series lead in their respective series. The Wild went into the second round hoping that this would finally be the year they got past Chicago after failed attempts in 2013 and 2014. Montreal meanwhile had high aspirations thanks in large part to goaltender Carey Price’s efforts.

Both squads still have a chance to reverse their fortunes, but the odds are now stacked heavily against them.

Montreal will be the first to fight for its survival as Game 4 vs. Tampa Bay is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can also stream it via NBC Sports Live Extra and tune in as early as 6:00 for pregame coverage:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Chicago’s Game 4 contest against Minnesota will start at 9:30 p.m. ET. It will also air on NBCSN, but the Wild-Hawks contest still has its own livestream URL:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE