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.
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.
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