Jonathan Toews joined Corey Perry and Doug Weight as the only players in NHL history to have five points in a game against the Wild when the Chicago Blackhawks captain scored three goals and two assists in a 5-3 victory Tuesday night.
It was Toews’ second career five-point game and fourth regular-season hat trick.
The Blackhawks moved within five points of the Wild, which could have temporarily taken over the NHL wins and points lead. By the time the Wild next plays Monday against Los Angeles, Chicago will have played twice more and will have played three more times overall than Minnesota.
So, in theory, if the Blackhawks take care of business, the Wild’s lead in the Central could be trimmed to one by the time it returns from its five-day bye.
But, chillax for now. Yes, if the Wild wants to get to where it wants to this postseason, it’ll probably have to beat Chicago. And, yes, despite the Wild’s 8-0-1 point streak in the regular season before this game, it all means nothing until the Wild proves itself vs. the Blackhawks in the postseason.
But Bruce Boudreau believes, at least in his time before the Wild’s bench, that his team has proved it can play with the Hawks. It deserved to win in Chicago the game it won there, he said, deserved a better fate in the last meeting that Toews won in overtime on a power play, he said, and tonight despite being outplayed during long chunks, the Wild could have easily pulled off a comeback in a third period where it had several chances and hit some iron.
Said coach Joel Quenneville on pulling within striking distance (Hawks are playing great hockey right now and seemingly scoring five a night): “I just think that at least we’re in the realm of being around them. We saw the pushes they had, the pace of the first period and them pushing in the last seven or eight minutes. It’s a fun building, a fun place to play and it shows you how dangerous they are. It was good by us coming in here and getting the job done, knowing that we’re still around and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Added Toews on the win, “I think regardless of how big those two points are and where we’re at and how close we are in the standings, I think we always look at that team, especially with the way they’re playing, as a measuring stick right now. We know that we’ve had some good games against them and at the same time we want to play good against this team on the road and we still kind of think back to last year and how our efforts weren’t quite there so our respect level for what they can do is at an all-time high and we know it’s going to take a heck of an effort to beat them. Most of all I think regardless of who we’re playing right now I think we want to stay consistent and keep building off last game. I think we’re playing pretty well as a four-line unit right now.”
The problem always with the Hawks is they’re littered with Hall of Famers. And as the Wild showed tonight, it can shut down the Patrick Kane line and shut down the Marian Hossa line and still get lit up by a Nick Schmaltz-Toews-Richard Panik trio that combined for 10 points and was plus-5.
Interesting how the storyline before the game was, “Look how deep the Wild is that it’s third pair tonight would be Marco Scandella-Matt Dumba.”
That pair struggled mightily and finally had to be broken up after being on the ice for the first two goals by the 5:01 mark of the second. Dumba, in his first game back after missing four games with a knee injury, struggled significantly. He was a well-earned minus-4.
So many turnovers, so many times caught out for long shifts. First goal, he lost a board battle and had a shot hit him and fall into the crease before Toews scored. Second goal, just 41 seconds after Mikael Granlund’s first of his two power-play goals tied the score at 1-1, Dumba turned it over to Toews. Scandella compounded things by skating below the goal line with Dumba. Panik was left alone and scored.
Gustav Olofsson took Scandella’s spot from there and Scandella skated the rest of the game with Jonas Brodin. The Wild escaped the second only down 2-1, but 31 seconds into the third, Toews won a faceoff clean on Mikko Koivu, and Schmaltz fired through multiple screens. Dubnyk didn’t even flinch as the puck sailed by him.
Zach Parise cut it to 3-2, but Schmaltz executed a perfect no-look, behind-the-back pass to Toews in front to Toews by Olofsson.
Boudreau said this was an eye opener of a game for Olofsson, but he wasn’t the worst one out there.
Boudreau said of Dumba, “Well, it’s really disappointing. I blame myself. It’s one practice. I should’ve let him completely get better. I’m sure he’s fine, but with one practice after being out for a little while, I think it showed tonight, you know? He wasn’t sharp in any situations.”
Olofsson and Tyler Graovac were reassigned to Iowa after the game to at least save cap space during the bye. The Wild will at least need to recall a forward by Sunday’s 5 p.m. practice, barring a trade, of course.
Dubnyk said of the game, “That was pretty uncharacteristic for what we’ve been doing. That’s disappointing for all of us. To start the third period like that was disappointing. We show what we can do when we want to play. Again, it’s pretty amazing to make a game of it like we did. We easily could have tied it up, which is good, but we can’t wait ‘til it’s 4-2 with 10 minutes left to decide we’re going to go.”
On the Toews line, Dubnyk said, “They were good. There’s going to be nights like that. There’s going to be nights where you’re jammed in your zone a little bit and they’ve got the puck a lot, especially with players that are as good as they are. But you can’t fall asleep. If you look at all four goals, that was the case a little bit unfortunately. There’s a lot of times where we were in our end defending. …you look at all four goals, those were just uncharacteristic plays on our part.”
Boudreau didn’t read the Wild the riot act after the game. “I mean, they’re 39-14,” he said.
But, with players all heading off in separate directions for some R&R, Boudreau said, “I told them to, quite frankly, get some rest and enjoy this break but want to get home to play hockey. ‘For 4 ½ months now, you guys have done a tremendous job and we’ve got something special going on, potentially.’ So it’s great to get away for a couple days, but the desire to play has got to be there and not like, ‘Uh, I want to stay on vacation. I want to stay here.’ You’ve got to want to come back and play, and if we do that then I think we’ll be fine. If not, it might take a day or two.”
That’s about it. Tough game for the Wild, which especially in the second couldn’t make a pass and was slow to every puck. Third, lots of chances, but no dice on tying things up and costly defensive lapses.
Now, we’ll see if anything happens trade-wise before the bye ends. Otherwise, the Wild has back-to-back games before next Wednesday’s trade deadline.
I talked to GM Chuck Fletcher about the deadline before tonight’s game, so that’ll be my Thursday follow.
We’ll be dark in the Strib for a few days after during the bye, barring trades, obviously. My Sunday Insider will be the Russo’s Rants Q and A I held a week, by the way.
The last Russo-Souhan Show before the trade deadline is Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Hell's Kitchen. Please come by, but make a reservation.