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Top 40 hits: Blackhawks get physical in playoff opener

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Toews vs. Wild 2013.jpgThe Blackhawks might be good enough to finesse their way through their first-round playoff series. But they're not taking any chances this time.

With Andrew Shaw capping things with a big hit on Torrey Mitchell that sparked the winning rally, the Hawks outhit the Minnesota Wild 40-36 in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series Tuesday night at the United Center.

With their big edges in speed and playmaking, the Blackhawks have never been eager to muck it up with physical teams trying to dilute their potent offense. Only three times in 18 games over the previous three seasons have the Hawks outhit an opponent.

And every time it's been out of necessity: Game 2 against Nashville in 2010 (32-28) after the Hawks were upset at home in the opener; Game 4 against Vancouver in 2011 (44-33) when the Hawks were down 3-0 and were desperate to survive; and Game 3 against Phoenix last season (41-39) when Raffi Torres knocked out Marian Hossa.

Shaw led the Hawks with seven hits. Defenseman Michal Rozsival had six.

''It's playoff hockey -- obviously a lot more physical and intense,'' Shaw said. ''In a seven-game series, you gotta wear down your opponent, I think we did a heck of a job doing that last night.''

The Blackhawks were outhit by the Coyotes 247-181 in last year's quarterfinals. They were outhit by the Canucks 281-203 in the 2011 quarterfinals. But already they look like a more physical playoff team.

''It goes up a notch for everybody,'' Hawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said. ''You're trying to wear the opponent down as much as you can. Every little thing you do in a series, in the end you're going to benefit by doing it. I think they're trying to do the same thing.''

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Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on May 1, 2013 6:50 PM.

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