Blackhawks fall to the Wild 5-4 in a shootout - KMSP-TV

Blackhawks fall to the Wild 5-4 in a shootout

Updated: April 02, 2012 9:55 AM CDT
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Blackhawks didn't have much opportunity to savor their playoff clinching victory in Nashville.

 Sunday night, the Minnesota Wild skated into the United Center with a chip on their shoulder. The Wild capitalized on Hawk errors, took an early lead and then built a two goal cushion. The Blackhawks mounted a comeback but could never gain a lead and finally lost 5-4 in a shootout.

In mid-December, the Wild sat atop the Western Conference and as the season comes to a close, they have sunk to 12th place. Scoring four times in one game doesn't happen very often for the Wild. They have netted only 173 goals, which make them the lowest scoring team in the NHL. Lowly Columbus has scored 17 more times than Minnesota. So the Wild potting four goals versus the Hawks can almost be considered a scoring outburst.

The game is played on the ice and stats only mean so much, especially at this time of the year. In their last four games, the Wild have dropped a one goal decision to the Rangers, defeated Florida and have downed the Kings and Blackhawks in a shootout. Not too shabby for a bunch of players that will be heading to the golf course in about a week.

Before Minnesota closes out their season, they will have a say in playoff rankings. This week, the Wild will face the Predators on Tuesday and then head home. They will finish up the season with the Hawks and then the Coyotes. The Wild took advantage of the less than focused Blackhawks and could be a pesky opponent later this week.

NHL officiating can be spotty and that description would be complimentary to Sunday night's crew. Maybe the subpar officiating helped to create some excitement for the 21,576 in attendance, but this was the type of game where players could be easily injured.

Wild forward Dany Heatley slashed Patrick Kane on the left hand/wrist area in the opening minutes. Kane went to the bench in some pain and there wasn't a penalty issued to Heatley. The chippy play continued and helped lead to a couple of fights later on. Minnesota may be out of the playoffs but their players still have pride and obviously are not quitting early on the season.

The referees went from not being concerned enough at the start, to calling Dylan Olsen for a questionable illegal hit to the head late in the first period. My take was Olsen didn't target the head but the league will review the play.

Bad officiating can impact the outcome of a game. In the playoffs officials are usually less likely to blow the whistle and that can hurt a finesse team like the Hawks. The Wild were guilty of a lot of stick fouls, some were called and many were missed. The Hawks can't use poor officiating as an excuse but they do need to adjust as to how a game is being called.

Andrew Shaw has been a great addition. He followed a beautiful assist on the winning goal in Nashville with another nice pass to Kane for the game tying marker versus the Wild. Sunday night Shaw caught the attention of the officials in a bad a way and also may have let his emotions get the best of him.

Shaw was whistled for a two minute unsportsmanlike penalty at the 6:43 mark of the opening period. The call was a bit weak but the game was getting away from the officials even though the contest was less than 10 minutes old. Shaw was going to the penalty box but then he started yapping at the referee and gesturing to the Wilds' Darroll Powe. The referee, then pressed to regain control of the game, issued a 10 minute misconduct penalty to Shaw for instigating. 

If from the beginning of the game the official would have taken control, Shaw and Powe probably wouldn't have been sent to the box for minor jousting before a faceoff. That said, Shaw is only a rookie and has to realize any NHL referee, even those who are well below average, won't tolerate backtalk from a recent AHL graduate. Shaw being off the ice for 10 minutes plus doesn't help his team, especially on a night when not everyone was fully engaged.

The Hawks rookie then got into a second period fight and more than held his own. Unfortunately Shaw was gesturing to the crowd after his fight looking for a few more cheers. That stuff can fly in the minors but that's not the right way to do things in the NHL.

It wouldn't be a surprise if a veteran player or someone from the Hawks coaching staff pulls Shaw aside in the next day or two. Shaw has done a great job by staying focused and being physical but not drawing dumb penalties. The last thing he should want is to stray from that course. Referees all talk to each other and are human. They don't like to be shown up, especially by a rookie and they have long memories. Shaw should learn a lesson from Sunday night.

Dave Bolland is a veteran player who should know better but his emotions got the better of him too on Saturday and Sunday. Bolland usually walks the fine line as he can aggravate an opponent without being penalized. There is no better way to describe the penalties Bolland took in the last two games as being anything other than stupid. The Hawks don't want to fall into bad habits and start taking dumb penalties. In the playoffs, mental mistakes can mean the difference and more is expected from Bolland.

It wasn't a shock to see Ray Emery get the start after Corey Crawford played the night before in Nashville. Emery hasn't played very often and doesn't look comfortable in the net. He certainly wasn't moving well from side to side. My thinking was Joel Quenneville might stick with Crawford seeing the Hawks have some time off coming.

A strong outing by Emery could have snagged two points for the Hawks. The team probably didn't deserve more than they received but Emery wasn't very sharp. The Hawks without Jonathan Toews are at a disadvantage in a shootout. The same can be said about shootouts when Emery is between the pipes.

Crawford hasn't been at the top of his game, and although his record recently is very good, he can still perform better. Quenneville is all in on Crawford for the post season and the Hawks bench boss is hoping he will respond. Crawford doesn't have to be great and dominate the opposing goalkeeper for the Hawks to have a long playoff run. What is important is that Crawford isn't the main reason for a Blackhawks loss.

Besides Crawford playing at a higher level the same can be said for the Hawks defensemen. The crew has been overworked and Sunday night the strain from the Nashville game did take its toll. Niklas Hjalmarsson in particular had a rough outing versus the Wild.

Olsen is trying to be more physical but watching him and Sean O'Donnell play together is a bit nerve wracking. The return date for defenseman Steve Montador as well Sami Lepisto is unknown. The Hawks could use both for the playoffs but getting only one of them back could help a great deal.

The Blackhawks will look to get some rest and regain their focus in the next few days before heading to Minnesota for a Thursday rematch.

Al's Shots

Toews has been cleared for contact and if he doesn't suffer another setback, he could be back this week. Duncan Keith will return from serving his five game suspension on Thursday. Hopefully Keith will be well rested and not too rusty.

The Hawks have done fine without Toews and Keith and hopefully the team's performance will further improve with those two back in the lineup. A mental let down, as was the case Sunday night, needs to be avoided when Keith and Toews return.

Follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia

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