"We weren't as sharp as we'd like to be," Marian Hossa said. "But as the game went on we improved. But I still think we can play better than we did. Huge win for us."
The Minnesota Wild out-shot the speedy Blackhawks in Game 1. The same blue collar, workman-like attitude that saw the Wild defeat the Colorado Avalanche has gotten the attention of the defending Stanley Cup Champs.
The second period featured a Wild team that went to work on the Chicago defense. Minnesota had some real opportunities to score goals, but Blackhawks' goaltender, Corey Crawford, was good on his angles and sharp with the glove. "We maybe got away with one there in the second," Ben Smith said. "They were peppering us a lot." The Wild out-shot the Hawks 17-3 in the middle stanza, but surrendered the only goal of the period after Smith deflected a shot to a wide open Patrick Kane.
Minnesota became just the second team to out-shoot the Blackhawks in a Stanley Cup Playoff game by ten shots since 2002. "They just outworked us, that's just the bottom line," defenseman Johnny Oduya said. "Hockey's very simple like that sometimes. You try to complicate things with systems and plays and a bunch of different things. But we talked about it today, the passion and fire has to be there and the urgency. They had a little bit more of that."
The Wild, however, squandered their opportunities by missing the net 18 times in the game. They fed into a hot power play by taking multiple penalties. The Wild's PK killed them in Game 1, killing only one of their three penalties.
The Hometown 20 also had a hard time cashing in with the extra man. "We fed them that confidence that they could win with our own sloppy play," Jonathan Toews said. "We weren't happy with the way we played (Friday). We made a lot of mistakes that were unnecessary. It comes down to making sure we have that work ethic, that energy, that high pace and all those other things will fall into place to make things harder on them."
Minnesota's hard work in the corners and a shooting mentality allowed them to control possession of the puck more than Chicago for the better part of the game. "Certainly, we could have easily gotten it completely against us," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. "We have to get more involved in the attack, get more support from the back end and come more in groups of five." Chicago was the second best team all regular season long in puck possession metrics.
"Obviously, when you're down a couple of goals (like the Wild were) you're stepping on the pedal a little bit more," Oduya said. "But we sat back too much. We can't do that."
While the final score looked more lopsided at 5-2 than the game actually was, the Wild have come to play against the Blackhawks. The Wild have clearly caught the attention of the Blackhawks. They know they have to improve their game if it wants to realize their deep playoff aspirations. The Blackhawks know that the Mike Yeo and the Wild mean business. They know that their play has to improve. Game Two on Sunday will see if the teams are able to make the necessary adjustments.