There was a moment in the third period in Game 3 on Tuesday when Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon, his team desperately pressing for the tying goal, got the puck atop of the circles.
He cocked his stick … and didn’t shoot even with what sounded like 18,000-plus anxious fans screaming, “SHOOOOOOT!”
Instead, Spurgeon passed, drawing a groan from the crowd, because he saw nothing but Blackhawks in front of him.
“I know it looks so easy and it looks like we’ve got time, but if you see the lane that our D-men are looking at, trying to shoot through three of their guys and one of our guys only to get it on net, they do such a good job of getting into that shooting lane,” teammate Zach Parise said.
The Blackhawks blocked 19 shots in Game 3. The Wild actually has blocked 10 more shots than Chicago in the playoffs, but when you’re the team chasing, it makes things difficult.
“They do a good job of fronting shots,” Spurgeon said. “The worst thing you can do as a [defenseman] is to shoot it into their shin pads and get their counterattack coming back at you.”
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is 3-0 against the Wild this series and has allowed four goals. He is 11-3 against the Wild in three playoff series with a 1.60 goals-against average.
“You try to get in front of his eyes and make it hard on him,” Parise said. “He’s probably feeling really good today about the way he played. But we’ll just try to keep challenging him a little more and try to break through and get that first one and then go from there.”
Losing the battle
The Wild won 22 of 59 faceoffs (37.2 percent) in Game 3 and ranks 14th of 16 teams in the playoffs (45.8 percent).
Mikko Koivu lost 17 of 28, Mikael Granlund 10 of 14 and Charlie Coyle seven of seven. Chicago’s Jonathan Toews won 15 of 23. Even though the Wild had the puck a lot of Tuesday’s game, it was chasing the puck initially on many shifts.
“They’re so good with the puck that faceoff is so important if you don’t start with the puck,” Parise said. “They’re good at exiting their zone, so you’re losing a chance right there. If you don’t win it in the neutral zone, they’re getting into your zone.
“That’s a huge part of the game. And that’s not just centermen, that’s wingers too, that’s blocking off draws, that’s keeping pucks alive. It’s a five-man thing.”
Now you see him …
Patrick Kane has four goals against the Wild this series. Most frustrating, Parise said the Wild actually feels it has done a good job limiting Kane’s touches.
“But he’s the type of guy who gets that one look and it’s in,” Parise said.
Asked what makes Kane so effective, none of his teammates really had a good answer. “It’s tough to pinpoint,” defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “If somebody could do that, he wouldn’t be scoring.’’