Great players make game winning plays as Kane lifts Hawks past t - FOX 32 News Chicago

Great players make game winning plays as Kane lifts Hawks past the Wild

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Sometimes the team that plays the best doesn’t win but the club with the best players does. In Game 6 that is exactly what occurred as the Chicago Blackhawks edged the Wild 2-1 in overtime. With the victory the Hawks advanced to the Western Conference Final.

The Wild outplayed the Blackhawks for the better part of 60 minutes and if not for a great performance from Corey Crawford would have won. Crawford stopped 34 of 35 shots and was severely tested on many occasions. Crawford survived a second period barrage of 14 shots and proved again he is one of the best big game goalies in the NHL.

After watching many contests that go to OT it is often a bad bounce or a unreal play by a great player that determines the winner. On Tuesday night it was a little of both.

Patrick Kane saw that a Brent Seabrook shot into the zone took an odd carom off the boards and came straight out in front of the net. That was the fortunate part. Peter Regin then made a fine subtle play by tieing up Ryan Suter’s stick which prevented him from clearing the puck. Kane then beat Matt Cooke to the loose puck. Kane’s great hands and skill came into play as he roofed a backhander high into the net.

The Wild did everything well throughout the game except for being able to solve Crawford. Often when a team is outplayed like the Hawks were but allowed to stay close they come back to win. Minnesota played a great game and deserved a better fate. The Wild gave the Hawks all they could handle but in the end the team that knew how to win found a way to do so.

Some say a sign of a very good club is they win when not at their best. If so Blackhawk fans should be encouraged. The Wild deserve credit but there were many flaws to the Hawks game.

Both Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya had a rough night. The Chicago defensemen in general were off.

Once again the Wild had the better of play when their bottom six forwards were on the ice. That was an issue in almost every game of the series and Minnesota's top players held their own as well. Ilya Bryzgalov didn’t face as many quality chances as Crawford but he did his part. Actually it would be fair to say if not for Crawford the Wild would have forced a Game 7.

The game began with the Hawks scoring an early ugly goal by Kris Versteeg. The Hawks got lucky with a fluky goal and then early in the second period Minnesota caught a break. The puck slipped by Niklas Hjalmarsson’s stick and was picked up at center ice by Erik Haula. Oduya took a bad angle and couldn’t catch the super fast Haula who beat Crawford to the glove side.

Joel Quenneville sounded like a very confident coach in pregame comments. Quenneville thought his team would raise their level of play and find a way to win. Well he was half right as the Hawks found a way to come out on top. But their level of play must improve to be successful in the next round.

The Wild had their way in much of the series whether the Hawks played at a faster pace or not. The Wild showed they have a team that could skate and they didn’t mind a faster game. The Blackhawks transition game seldom rose to a high level because the passing wasn’t good. That will need to improve as will puck management.

The Blackhawks will now either face the Duck or Kings. If they play Annaheim the series will open on the road, versus Los Angeles the Hawks will have home ice advantage.

Next round, the biggest difference will be the playoff experience factor of either opponent is far greater than St. Louis or Minnesota. The Kings are a recent Stanley Cup winner and have an elite goaltender in Jonathan Quick. The Ducks are led by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and both are former Cup winners.

The Kings have lost three straight games and will take on the Ducks on home ice to avoid elimination. If Los Angeles wins Wednesday night, Game 7 will be played in Anaheim on Friday night.

The Blackhawks will get a few days off and will be hoping Andrew Shaw will be able to return to start the next round. With or without Shaw the Hawks will need to be better to have a chance for another shot at the Stanley Cup.

You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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