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Thursday, May 2, 2013
Playoffs bring out physical side of Hawks

By Scott Powers

Jason Zucker, Johnny Oduya
Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya hits the Wild's Jason Zucker in overtime of Game 1.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks recorded five hits against the Minnesota Wild when they met in the regular season on April 9.

Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, alone, had seven hits against the Wild in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Tuesday. As a team, the Blackhawks had 40 hits, four more than the Wild.

The Blackhawks may not have been the most physical team during the regular season, but they’re out to prove differently now that the playoffs have arrived.

“I think it goes up a notch for everybody,” Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said. “You’re trying to wear the opposition down as much as you can. Every little thing you do in a series, in the end you’re going to benefit from doing it. I think it goes for us and the other team, too. They’re trying to do the same thing.”

Shaw said he made a concentrated effort to hit more during Game 1. He didn’t have any hits against the Wild last month.

“It’s a mindset,” Shaw said. “Going into the playoffs, it’s a more and physical intense game. You know it’s a grind from here on out. I just know it’s a seven-game series, and you got to wear down the opponent. Getting licks on their D is always a good thing. It might not hurt them this game, but if you keep getting at them game in, game out, by the end of the series hopefully they’re worn out and tired, sore. It creates space for me and my linemates, and we try to create offense off of that.”

The Blackhawks outhit just five opponents during the regular season, and one of those instances came from a 13-7 advantage over the Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks had 28 games with 19 or fewer hits and two with 30 or more hits. Their regular-season high was 32 hits, which came against the Colorado Avalanche.

Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell explained Wednesday it wasn’t that the Blackhawks don’t like to hit.

“We’re a puck-possession team,” Bickell said. “It’s hard to hit when you don’t have the puck.”

The Blackhawks didn’t have the puck seconds prior to their game-winning goal Tuesday. Shaw delivered a hit on the Wild’s Torrey Mitchell that gave the Blackhawks possession and began a push in the other direction. Moments later, Bickell scored the game-winning goal on assists from Viktor Stalberg and Oduya.

“It was a perfect setup by the D -- force him wide and I’m coming in,” Shaw said. “I know I have an opportunity to get a hit in, and I did. Turned the puck over and turned it the other way and scored.

“It doesn’t matter if it shows up on the score sheet. We’re a team. We got the win.”