Following an overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks heading into the bye week, Minnesota scored a 5-2 win against NHL-leading Tampa Bay the first game back.
Chicago once again looks like the class of the conference and enters the playoffs as its top seed. The Blackhawks will face the Predators — a familiar postseason foe whom they beat in both 2010 and 2015 — in the first round, beginning with Game 1 on Thursday in Chicago. And no one knows better how the West can be won than Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.
Boudreau referenced a similar situation in 2016, when Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews missed the All-Star Game with an illness. Toews was forced to miss the first game after the All-Star break that season.
The Blackhawks came out with a strong push to start the game and scored just before the midway point of the first period to take a 1-0 lead. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews gathered up a bank pass from defenseman Brent Seabrook and scored from the left circle off the rush at 9:07 of the first period.
“We definitely can play better in front of our own fans. Whether we score two goals to win the game 2-1 or we score six or seven, it doesn’t matter to us. We’ve got to be better in all areas of the rink and nhl jersey cheap give our fans something to cheer for. We’ll focus on having that same road-like mentality we’ve had and just having a better start and we’ll go from there.”
With the games remaining starting to dwindle, a 10-point deficit in the standings is quite the mountain to climb, especially in the age of the three-point game. That’s why the Wild is expecting the Blackhawks to throw everything it has tonight.
Find a way to keep Jonathan Toews off the scoresheet. The St. Louis Blues eliminated the Blackhawks last spring in part because Toews was held without a goal in all seven games. Toews now has a playoff goal drought of 10 games, reaching back to the 2015 Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nashville needs to keep that drought going.
Toews got hurt during Chicago’s 2-1 loss at San Jose last Wednesday. He did not participate in the Blackhawks’ morning skate for their matchup with the Florida Panthers, and coach Joel Quenneville said the center is questionable for Thursday night’s game against New Jersey.
Leading the team in points has never been Toews’ primary focus. For all he’s accomplished, the center has never really been acknowledged as a scorer. His longtime teammate, Patrick Kane, is by every measure the more dynamic playmaker. So it’s a testament to Toews’ varied skill set that his most impressive playoff performances might have come in 2013, when he scored just three goals in 23 playoff games — but made his presence felt in other ways.
“I thought we beat a desperate hockey club, a club that played very well,” Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We didn’t play our best game but the most important player on the ice was our best player. The goalie was great. … This is one of the hardest buildings in the world to play in, and when you come and win both games in this building it’s a pretty good feeling.”
On the flip side, Minnesota could potentially be the team that delivers a serious blow to Chicago’s postseason hopes. The Blackhawks have made the playoffs nine consecutive seasons, winning three Stanley Cups during that span.