Bickell stands out, Hawks good enough to capture Game 2 - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Bickell stands out, Hawks good enough to capture Game 2

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

After a 4-1 win in Game 2, the Chicago Blackhawks are now in position to dispose of the Minnesota Wild in a short series. That doesn’t mean they will, but unless the Wild finds a way to register a win on Tuesday night, their off season will likely start soon.

The Wild will now play on home ice where they have won two of three this season while facing the Blackhawks. Down deep the Wild might feel they blew an opportunity to steal a game in Chicago as the Hawks weren’t at their best. With a bounce or two and scorers that could finish Minnesota could be even in the series.

What is more likely to be true, is the Hawks can handle the Wild without being at their best. That looks to be so because Corey Crawford has been consistently playing at a high level. When push comes to shove his teammates have responded and that’s why the Blackhawks are in control.

In Game 3 all the pressure is on the Wild and their best players have to be a lot better. If they are, and Crawford’s play slips, maybe the Wild can claw their way back into the series. If Crawford isn’t as sharp, but his teammates find a full time effort, the Wild could still be in trouble.

The Wild deserve some credit for not allowing the Hawks to string together three strong periods. Crawford has been impossible to beat in the second period of each contest. The Wild have had a total of 30 shots turned aside in the middle frame of both games and that hasn’t helped the Minnesota cause.

Maybe somehow the Wild will finally score a power play goal, that could help them get a win. Or, Ilya Bryzgalov will play out of his mind and that could be a way this series becomes more interesting. But until the Wild show more, things will continue to be slanted toward Chicago. The Hawks are on a six game win streak and have only allowed nine goals during that run.

Joel Quenneville must be happy, but it is unlikely he is content. Quenneville seldom changes a winning lineup but on Sunday he did.

Some of the reason for lineup changes was because Andrew Shaw is injured. Quenneville may have benched Brandon Bollig for the first time all season because he is looking for a different mix.

Word out of Blackhawks training camp back in September was Quenneville really liked Joakim Nordstrom’s game. Judging from the 14:36 of ice time Nordstrom had, it looks like Quenneville still feels the same way about the rookie winger.

Marcus Kruger and Brandon Saad looked good playing with Nordstrom on the third line as they all can really skate. The trio created some chances and played at a quick pace.

Kris Versteeg was back in the lineup after being a late scratch in Game 1. It has been reported Versteeg was under the weather. In Game 2, he skated on the fourth line with Michal Handzus and Jeremy Morin. The trio was fine but it remains to be seen if Quenneville will continue to fiddle with the fourth line.

Quenneville spread around the minutes amongst his blueliners except for Nick Leddy. Of all defensemen Leddy had the most ice time in the opening period (7:59). That changed in a big way in the third frame as Leddy had only three shifts for a total of 46 seconds of playing time.

Leddy will be in his hometown for Game 3 and we will see if his ice time increases or decreases. On Sunday, Leddy played 13:48 which was the lowest amount of ice time for defensemen. Possibly Leddy gets out of Quenneville’s dog house, or the Hawks bench boss could stick to rotating five defenders.

In the Sunday matinee, Bryan Bickell recorded a goal and two assists. He was the best player on the ice.

Bickell did everything well, including blistering a well-placed wrist shot past Bryzgalov. That was second time Bickell beat Bryzgalov but his first shot rang off the crossbar.

Bickell got paid the big bucks this past summer because he has size and good hands. Those are important attributes but what makes Bickell valuable to the Hawks is he can play well with the most skillful players. That isn’t as easy as it sounds, but Bickell has enough skill to elevate the play of the entire first line.

Jonathan Toews scored the first goal of the game off of a Marian Hossa rebound. Hossa was sent in on a breakaway because of a great pass by Bickell. Saad added a marker late in the second period with a beautiful wrist shot into the top corner of the net. After Bickell added a goal late in the third frame, Saad capped off the scoring with an empty net tally.

The Blackhawks have been good enough, but are not playing at their highest level. In parts of Game 2, the Hawks couldn’t move the puck as their passing was poor. That was the case in the third period and they were also getting beat to loose pucks.

In Game 3, the Wild should be more determined and the Hawks may need to be sharper. Although, unless the Wild’s best players become more noticeable and Bryzgalov outplays Crawford, the Hawks can win Game 3 without being at their best.

I will be back on Wednesday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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