With the Flyers win tonight, Wednesday will feature three Game 7's, which is glorious! The most important game to us in Hawkey Town is the Avalanche and the Wild in Denver. The winner, of course, moves on to play the Blackhawks in the Conference III Finals. So who do would we rather see in the second round, Colorado or Minnesota?
The Hawks had their issues with both teams in the regular season. The Blackhawks went 2-3 versus the Wild, despite outscoring them 15 to 14. The Hawks went 1-3-1 against the Avalanche and were outscored 17 to 14 but half of their goals game in a 7-2 win in December.
Obviously, I would rather play Minnesota for the sole reason of having home ice advantage. The Wild have improved since the Blackhawks knocked them out in five games last spring. But they do not have the depth to keep up with the Hawks. They are a very top heavy team with the majority of their threats on the top two lines. If the Hawks can shut down their top six and force guys like Nino Niederreiter, Dany Heatley and Kyle Brodziak to beat them they will be sitting pretty. Plus, does Darcy Kuemper really worry you between the pipes? Sure, he has done a nice job winning three out of four starts against the Avs, but they don't have the cold blooded killers in Colorado like the ones who reside in Chicago.
The Avalanche are tough to beat at home, so starting a series in Denver would be a big chore. I don't like the chances of the Hawks winning back to back series after falling down 0-2 if they should stumble out west. For years we have heard how the Blackhawks don't matchup well with big physical teams. Well considering their last three playoff series wins have been over the Blues, Bruins and Kings we can put that crackpot theory to rest. The Hawks struggle against teams that can match their speed and keep up with them like the Avalanche. Colorado will cause matchup fits with guys late Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon. But, if you have watched the series against the Wild they are getting owned in their own zone. The Wild have a 59.2 CF% in the series and are two blown calls from sending Erik Johnson to the 19th hole for some post golf beers with his former Blues teammates. The Avalanche play no defense. Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund and Matt Moulson have had their way in the Colorado zone. Those are good players but just imagine what guys like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell can do against the soft Colorado blue line.
The Blackhawks took their lumps against both of these teams in the regular season, but they are currently in full "F You" mode" where the regular season doesn't mean a thing. Home ice would be a luxury but the Hawks are going to beat either one of these teams if they keep up their play from the last four outings.