clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Where's the feisty in Wild versus Blackhawks?

New, comments

The series between the Wild and Blackhawks has been quiet and clean with very little of the "rough stuff."

Jonathan Daniel

You watched the first two periods of Game 3. Maybe your rooting interest kept you from being bored. Or maybe like many non-Wild or non-Blackhawks fans, you found the tight-checking dull. Perhaps you wanted more speed, more scoring and more hitting. But why is it so slow? Why don't these guys hate each other? By Game 3 of the Avalanche series, Matt Cooke was letting loose with the knees, Avs were punching people in the back of the head and diving all over the place. The Wild were screaming about how poorly officiated everything was (it was) and there was so much animosity. Similarly, the Blackhawks series with the Blues had Seabrook getting suspended and Keith taunting a concussed Backes. That's even without mentioning the knee-on-knee hits and Joel Quenneville's fine for inappropriate behavior. It's not like the Blackhawks and Wild are teams that don't get feisty. They can, and have previously, even against each other. The first two games of the regular season series were a home and home that featured a total of 64 penalty minutes, which wouldn't rival the most penalty filled games in history, but is still more than are happening in this year's round 2. Recent memory features this fabulous scene from a 2012 game.

In these playoffs, there's none of the hysterics of that April 1st, 2012 game. Whenever there's a scrum, it seems like the players are going through the motions--responding because it's what they are used to doing rather than feeling genuine ire. The Wild and their fans should hate these guys! They won the Cup last year! Why is there so much respect!?!

It's not like the series isn't physical. NBCSN claimed that Clayton Stoner is the player who should scare the Blackhawks the most because he levels a bunch of hits. Putting aside the ridiculousness of Stoner being the biggest threat to the Blackhawks, there is plenty of physicality in the series. Stoner did have six hits in the first game, but that declined to two in Game 3. Plus, in Game 1, Nino Niederreiter and Erik Haula each had 5 hits. Cody McCormick has quite a few too. For the Blackhawks, Brandon Bollig led in Game 1 hits, but he doesn't get as much ice time as Stoner (and was scratched in Game 2), so it's more difficult for him to get as many hits.

Is it calm because the usual agitators aren't playing? Andrew Shaw was injured in the first game and Cooke is still suspended until the game on Friday. Still, Nino is playing, and opposing players do seem to loathe him because he's big and annoying and will stand in the goalie's face. Bickell is in for Chicago, and I know I sure hate him, so I'd imagine that the players wouldn't feel a lot of love for him either.

Maybe both teams are worried about their special teams. In the regular season, Chicago's power-play was ranked 10th, while the Wild's was 16th. As much as it seems like the Wild have a horrendous power-play, it was really more of an average one. In fact, the Wild's regular season power-play was better than six other playoff teams. The Blackhawks' penalty kill was ranked 19th, which is not very good for a team coming off a Stanley Cup championship. But that's way better than the 27th ranked Minnesota Wild penalty kill, which had stretches that looked good, but other times, they looked like a team on a goalie carousel. I think if the Wild had one number one goalie all season, the penalty kill would have been at least as good as the Blackhawks'. But the Blackhawks are at least as good or better in both special teams areas, so they should want to take penalties and want to make the Wild take penalties. Until Game 3, The Wild's biggest special teams problems is that they had never scored a power-play goal against the Blackhawks in the playoffs. So if I'm Quenneville, I don't feel like needing to stay disciplined is necessary for my team to win.

Yet both sides are playing clean and disciplined hockey. Is all this mildness because they "respect" the guys on the other side? Maybe. It could be that the theatrics of their first round match-ups left them too tired to build animosity for an opponent that, all things considered, isn't tremendously evil. Perhaps this series will last long enough for the teams to get a good hate burning. Or maybe the team that wins this series will emerge with enough energy to attack whichever California team is still left standing. Now that's series with a lot of violence.