Surging Hawks offense gets to Devan Dubnyk early and often

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Minnesota goalie Devan Dubnyk smothers the puck as Brandon Saad closes in on Friday. (Getty Images)

It took all of 75 seconds on Friday night for the Blackhawks to pierce the aura of invincibility that has surrounded Devan Dubnyk since mid-January. Brandon Saad muscled his way past Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter, jarring Suter’s stick loose in the process, then snapped a shot past Dubnyk before many of the fans at the United Center had even settled into their seats for Game 1.

“He’s been really successful,” Antoine Vermette said of Dubnyk, his former teammate in Arizona. “You want to get him. And Saader did a pretty good job right off the bat.”

The Hawks beat Dubnyk twice more in the first period alone, then got the game-winner on a harmless shot from the half-wall by Teuvo Teravainen in the final minute of the second period. It was hardly the kind of performance that made Dubnyk a Vezina Trophy finalist as one of the league’s top goaltenders.

The Hawks have a history of beating supposedly unbeatable goaltenders — think Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Tuukka Rask in 2013, and Pekka Rinne in the first round this season —and getting to Dubnyk early was key.

“It’s nice to get four by him,” Patrick Sharp said. “We’re more happy about the win than getting four goals. We know he’s going to be rock solid for them going forward. It’s one game.”

Dubnyk said his confidence wasn’t rattled by the lousy start. And he showed his mental toughness in the first round, stopping 66 of 68 shots in the last two games against St. Louis after getting blitzed for six goals on 17 shots in Game 4.

“It’s a fresh game,” Dubnyk said. “I felt pretty good about my game for most of the night. Obviously, I gave up three in the first period, but as the game wore on, I felt pretty good. Disappointed in myself to not work to find [Teravainen’s shot] to put it away. That’s a play I certainly don’t want to give up after we worked so hard to come back, but I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again. I have all the confidence in the world that we’ll come back and have a really nice game on Sunday.”

It might not matter, the way the Hawks offense suddenly is rolling. After a lengthy team slump in the wake of Kane’s broken clavicle on Feb. 24 —the Hawks scored two or fewer goals in 14 of the first 21 games without Kane (not counting empty-netters), and had five goals in their last four regular-season games — the Hawks have regained their scoring touch. They’ve scored four goals in four of seven playoff games so far against the defensive-minded Predators and Wild, and got a goal from each of their four lines in Game 1.

It’s not that Joel Quenneville just assumed the offense would come around once Kane returned to the lineup, and once the games started really counting. He just wasn’t sweating it.

“Whether you’re scoring four and winning, or scoring three or two and winning, the bottom line is getting the W,” he said. “We won a lot of key games this year without scoring a lot of goals [and by] keeping the puck out of our net —kind of the way Minnesota plays. That’s going to be the recipe to be successful in this series, is keeping the puck out of your net, because it’s going to be hard to score goals. … I’m more concerned about what we give up than what we create, because I always feel there’s enough depth and there’s enough opportunity on all the lines to create.”

Still, it’s nice to see the puck go in. Especially against a guy like Dubnyk.

“We know how good that guy can be, so when he’s on top of his game, he’s going to be really hard to score on,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “So hopefully we can bring the same effort the next game.”


Twitter: @marklazerus

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