There was hope entering Thursday’s game in Chicago that maybe the four-day Christmas break would have done Minnesota’s players some good. Perhaps getting away from the rink for a couple days would let the boys unwind, get their minds off hockey, and they would come back ready to break out of this funk that has now gotten downright painful to witness.
Sadly, those feelings were quickly vanquished Thursday, as we learned early on in the contest at the United Center that it would not be Minnesota’s night to break out of the doldrums.
And boy, that game felt familiar. The Wild peppered an underwhelming netminder with shots, but squeezed their sticks into sawdust and couldn’t find the back of the net often enough. All the while, fluky goals and easy capitalizations were happening at the other end, which was more than enough for Chicago to skate on by.
Here are some depressing facts about Thursday’s game:
- Chicago entered the contest with the worst PK in the league, but was a perfect 3-for-3 in killing off penalties against the Wild (though the Wild scored just after a power play ended).
- Blackhawks goalie Collin Delia, 24 years old, had played in a whopping three career NHL games before Thursday, and he left one of those with an injury, eventually resulting in an Accountant coming in for Chicago.
- The Wild pumped 48 shots on Delia, but only managed two goals, with one of those coming in garbage time.
- Devan Dubnyk—who has struggled mightily during this long slide—allowed three goals on ten shots and lasted all of 23 minutes before getting the hook from Bruce Boudreau.
- Patrick Kane had a hat trick [BARF!].
- Chelsea Dagger is the worst thing that has ever happened to us as a society, and we had to hear it five times Thursday.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Wild started the game getting the better of the play in the opening minutes, getting a few good chances but failing to capitalize, only to have their opposition come down and quickly score on a weird, fluky goal. In fact, this frustrating opening goal came on Chicago’s very first shot on net, as Jared Spurgeon tangled with Artem Anisimov in Dubnyk’s goalcrease. Dubnyk came over to square up on Kane but just ran into the brick wall that is Spurgeon, leaving plenty of net open for a sniper like Kane to notch his 18th of the season.
The Wild would continue to tilt the ice in their favor for the remainder of the period, and finally broke through with five minutes left. With Brendan Perlini in the box, the Wild had a solid power play that resulted in about five grade-A chances, including a Ryan Suter shot off the crossbar. The penalty would expire with nothing doing for Minnesota, but the boys were still buzzin’ at that point. Eric Staal picked up the puck behind the net, wrapped it around to the front, and put it into Delia’s pads. The rebound kicked out to the top of the crease, where Zach Parise chipped in his team-leading 16th of the year.
After the first period, the Wild were leading the shots on goal count 15-4.
Once again, it didn’t take the Blackhawks long to get on the board to open the frame, as Chicago’s second tally came just 23 seconds into the period. Jonathan Toews took a cycled puck from the corner and sent it toward the right circle. There, Jason Zucker deflected it, but in a bad-luck carom, the puck still landed right on the stick of a crossing Brandon Saad. Saad snapped a shot that looked like it should be handled by Dubnyk, but it somehow got through him, and just like that, I was scrambling again for the mute button as Chelsea Dagger blared.
Just three minutes later, with Staal in the box, Kane notched his second of the game off of a one-timer from Erik Gustafsson. Dubnyk slid across in plenty of time to make the save, and there was no traffic, but he just didn’t get down in time, and the puck went through the wickets. That would be the third goal against on ten shots, so Boudreau had seen enough. He summoned Alex Stalock, who was weirdly sitting down the hall, over the river, and through the woods, because apparently there’s no room on the bench for the backup goalie in Chicago. So while Stalock scrambled down the tunnel and fussed with his glove and blocker, we all listened to almost that entire damn song again.
There was a scary moment about five minutes into the second where Duncan Keith’s stick rode up and caught Parise under the visor. Parise was writhing on the ice holding his eye, but thankfully it narrowly missed doing any permanent damage. A shiner did appear next to Parise’s left eye minutes later, but it was relieving to see him remain in the game.
After two periods, it was 3-1 ’Hawks, with the Wild still dominating play and carrying a whopping 31-15 shot lead.
Ugh… that third period.
This one pretty much sums up Minnesota’s game... With an odd-man rush developing at the blueline for the Wild, Staal was in offside. To get back onside, he stretched out his left foot across the line, but has he did that, he sent a rogue Blackhawk flying. Rush negated, power play awarded for the ’Hawks. On the ensuing manpower advantage, Stalock came out of his crease to clear away a loose puck from an onrushing Alex DeBrincat. But Stalock hit DeBrincat with the puck, and the deflection—for the second time in the game—landed right on the stick of Saad in prime scoring territory. Saad calmly slid it under a retreating and very out of position Stalock for his second of the game.
With the Wild trailing 4-1 now, Boudreau pulled Stalock with 3:42 left to play. The Wild did finally break through for a second time with a Staal goal off of a rebound, but it was too little and far too late. Oh, and Kane scored an empty netter to complete the hat trick a few seconds later, meaning we once again were subjected to an extended rendition of Chelsea Dagger, as the ice crew skated around to retrieve the hats.
Ugh… That third period.
Ugh… That game.
Ugh... That song.