Ok folks, it's time to work up some good old fashioned hatred for the Minnesota Wild. This will not be as easy as it was last season for the Coyotes, or the likes of the Blues, Red Wings or Canucks. There has not been much of a history between the Blackhawks and Wild, as tonight will be the first playoff game between these two franchises. But, there is plenty of hockey history between Chicago and Minnesota. Back in the 80's, the rivalry between the Blackhawks and the North Stars made what we have with the Canucks today look like a meeting of the Chess Club. The North Stars had guys like Dino Ciccarelli and Basil McRae, true legends of douchebaggery.
This Wild team doesn't compare to those North Stars teams of the 1980's, but that doesn't mean there aren't any reasons to heckle them until your throat is hoarse. We can start right at the top with Craig Leipold, you remember him right? This was the guy that signed Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to identical 13 year $98 million contracts in July. Then during the lockout in September he was crying that these long term contracts where killing the game. Wait, what? Well his $196 million spending spree got him a team that backed into the 8th seed. Teams around the NHL will have fun raiding his franchise of good, young talent when he can't afford to pay anyone, due to the Suter and Parise deals. Well played Mr. Leipold, well played indeed! And don't forget about the home crowd booing Josh Harding last Friday night. State of Hockey, my left nut!
I am happy we have a playoff series with the Wild. The Hawks are going to need another big rival to replace the Eastern Conference bound Red Wings. Minnesota could be that team, and the best way to get the hatred up is a couple years of post season play. Plus, going to St. Paul for a game is an experience all hockey fans should enjoy. The Xcel Center is a great arena and any hockey nut would love a visit to Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub. The Twin Cities is a great area, even if is full of Vikings fans. But for the next 7-13 days they can all go scratch!
Season Series: Blackhawks 2-0-1
|Jan. 30 -- Wild win 3-2 at Minnesota (SO)|
|Mar. 05 -- Blackhawks win 5-3 at Chicago|
|Apr. 09 -- Blackhawks win 1-0 at Minnesota|
|Tue 4/30/12||7 P.M.||MIN @ CHI|
|Fri 5/3/13||8:30 P.M.||MIN @ CHI|
|Sun 5/5/13||2 P.M.||CHI @ MIN|
|Tue 5/7/13||8:30 P.M.||CHI @ MIN|
|*Thur 5/9/13||TBD||MIN @ CHI|
|*Sat 5/11/13||TBD||CHI @ MIN|
|*Sun 5/12/13||TBD||MIN @ CHI|
Minnesota Wild Skaters and Statistics
Minnesota Wild Goalies and Statistics
Despite adding Zach Parise in the off season the Wild still finished 22nd in scoring, averaging 2.46 goals per game. But this is a vast improvement considering they were dead last in scoring last year with just 2.02 goals per game. Parise has been the goods, as he leads the team in points, goals, power play and game winning goals. He is on the top line with the solid veteran center Mikko Koivu and youngster Charlie Coyle. Jason Pominville was a nice addition to this team at the trade deadline. He should be returning to the lineup tonight after missing the last couple games due to Dustin Brown's flying elbow. Devin Setoguchi has had a nice year by scoring 13 goals, second only to Parise's 18. One player we will not be seeing is Dany Heatley, who is out with a shoulder injury. The Wild miss his 21 points (10 G, 11 A) in 36 games, but probably not his -12. Matt Cullen is a solid 3rd line center, who always seems to have good games against the Hawks. Cal Clutterbuck and Mike Rupp will provide most of the physical play from the Wild and will try their best to get under the Hawks skin.
You have to start the topic of Minnesota blue liners with Ryan Suter, their top defenseman. He got off to a slow start this year, but he is near the top of the league in almost every statistical category for defenseman and has his name in Norris Trophy discussions. I would like my Norris Trophy winner to be a bit better than just a +2, but I guess I'm picky. He is paired up with rookie Jonas Brodin, who could be a Calder Trophy finalist. He leads all rookies in ice time this year, averaging over 23 minutes a game. Jared Spurgeon and Brett Clark make up the 2nd pair while Clayton Stoner and Tom Gilbert round out the back end. Stoner had a career high 10 assists this season, plus one sweet assist to Marian Hossa the last time we saw the Wild.
Niklas Backstrom has been a work horse to say the least this year. He played in 42 games and started 30 out the last 32 games for Minnesota. Fatigue could be a factor for Backstrom as he gave up 3 or more goals in 5 of his last 7 starts. He is 5-8-1 in 15 regular season starts against the Blackhawks with a .919 save %, 2.65 GAA and one career shutout. Backstrom is 3-8 with a .911 save % and a 2.55 GAA in 11 career playoff starts.
The additions of Paries and Suter has helped the Wild's power play convert 17.9% of their chances this year. This ranks them 16th in the league, a big improvement from last season when they had the 27th ranked power play unit. Even with the jump up, I would not consider them to be a scary unit. They only have 2 more PPGs than the Blackhawks, 27 in 151 chances, compared to the Hawks 25 out of 150. The Minnesota penalty kill struggled down the stretch and finished the year rank 18th, with a 80.7 % kill rate.
I have been reading a lot about how anything thing is possible, 1991, the 2012 Los Angeles Kings and so on and so forth. Lets be honest with ourselves, this Wild team is not the Kings from last season. LA played its best hockey down the stretch and continued to roll in the playoffs. The Wild have staggered to the finish line going 5-8-1 their last 14 games. The Wild have to play perfect hockey and must get a stellar goaltending performance in order to have a chance in this series. The Blackhawks just have to play the same hockey they've played all season. Blackhawks in 5