One team has been scoring goals as though they were playing in the run-and-gun 1980s. The other team’s goalie has been stopping pucks at a remarkable percentage.
In a classic example of overwhelming offense versus terrific defense, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
Chicago (2-0-1) has pumped in 15 goals in its first three games, thanks in part to an early revival from its long-time franchise players. Jonathan Toews has five markers, third in the league behind Toronto’s 1-2 punch of Auston Matthews and John Tavares. Patrick Kane has bagged four goals.
As for Minnesota (0-1-1), it’s managed just two goals in two games, but Devan Dubnyk has done his best impression of a pitcher keeping his team alive without much run support. After a 36-save performance in a season-opening 4-1 loss at Colorado Oct. 4 — the last two goals were empty-netters — Dubnyk stopped 41 of 42 shots in a 2-1 shootout defeat Saturday night against Vegas.
The 6-foot-6 Dubnyk owns a ridiculous .963 save percentage, yet doesn’t have a win to his credit. Is the four-day break between games something that worries him?
“Those are things that I’ve come to learn that are very much out of my control,” he said. “There’s going to be some times in the season when we’re playing so many games and we’ll want some time off, so you just take the time when you can and use the days to practice.”
While Dubnyk tries to maintain his form, the Wild want to find their goal-scoring touch. More puck possession would help, as would more shots. They’ve been outshot 82-51 in the first two games, and it’s hard to win in the NHL with such a discrepancy.
How hard has it been for Minnesota to create good looks? In its first two games, it has created only two 5-on-5 chances in the first two periods of each match.
“We haven’t been up to par yet, or even close, I think,” said Wild center Charlie Coyle.
The Blackhawks’ arrival could spur a revival for the Minnesota offense. Only Vancouver has allowed as many goals (14) as Chicago, which has struggled for consistency between the pipes in the continued absence of two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Corey Crawford.
Out since last December with a concussion, Crawford is still another week away from a return, which coach Joel Quenneville thinks will happen Oct. 18 against Arizona. In the meantime, Cam Ward has started the first three games and has ceded 14 goals on 89 shots, including seven in a 7-6 overtime loss Sunday night against Toronto.
Chicago has minimized the damage of Ward’s .843 save percentage with the hot start of its mainstays. Toews’ hat trick keyed a 5-4 overtime win Saturday night in St. Louis, while Kane produced a pair of goals to wipe out the Maple Leafs’ third period lead and earn a “loser” point for the Blackhawks.
“I thought a lot of different guys chipped in and did some good things tonight,” Kane said of the Toronto game.
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