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Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Hawks planning to adapt offense to Wild's D

By Scott Powers

Blackhawks/Wild
Jonathan Toews says the Hawks won't make excuses for scoring just two goals against the Wild in Game 1.
CHICAGO -- Aside from the final score, the Minnesota Wild achieved Tuesday much of what they had hoped in Game 1 of their first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wild slowed the Blackhawks' offensive attack, got in the way of their shots and forced a tight one-goal game which was only decided by the Blackhawks in the final five minutes of overtime.

The Wild's game plan was no surprise to the Blackhawks. They assumed the Wild would play in such a fashion and expect to see more of it the rest of the series. But the Blackhawks hope to put some more pucks past Wild goaltenders in Game 2 and beyond.

"It goes back -- Minnesota has always defended the front of their net extremely well," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Wednesday. "They collapse like a lot of teams in our league do. They protect that slot area. It's tough to penetrate with direct plays. Indirect plays off the goalie is the best way to get that guy the puck in the slot, so hopefully we get more pucks and more bodies in traffic at the net and look to get second and third opportunities. But the clean looks through the middle of the ice at their end is going to be hard to find."

The Blackhawks don't view any potential changes as the Wild dictating the game's style, but more the Blackhawks switching to another one of their strengths.

"We like to think of ourselves as an offensive team that can create chances every which way," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said on Wednesday. "We scored an overtime goal on the rush [Tuesday] by just making a good play in the defensive zone. We can create chances like that, and we can create chances by getting shots from the point and shots from everywhere and getting guys going to the net. It doesn't really matter. We've got to find a way to score. We're not going to make excuses and change the way we play because of it."

The Wild were able to control the first period of Tuesday's game. They allowed the Blackhawks six shots on net and blocked seven. But as the game rolled on, the Blackhawks wore the Wild's defense down and were able to create more sustained offense.

The Wild continued to block shots Tuesday, but the Blackhawks were shooting so often that more and more pucks found their way through. The Blackhawks took 66 shots and 22 were blocked by Wild skaters, eight missed the net, 35 were on goal and saved by goaltender Josh Harding and two went into the net.

Going forward, Quenneville believes playing faster and uglier can be the solution to the Wild's defense.

"We want to make sure we're advancing the puck," Quenneville said. "We want to make sure we get the puck in behind their defense. We don't always have to make direct plays. An illustration was on the [game-winning] goal. We had some good foot speed, put it in behind them for races is sometimes advantageous.

"Just think by playing a quicker, more direct game, hopefully we can make them defend more. But simpler doesn't have to be pretty. If we want to play a pretty game in that type of traffic, it's going to lead into them having some success. I think we have to play an uglier game and a more faster game."