Round 2 Previews : Blackhawks vs Wild

Jonathan Daniel

3) Chicago Blackhawks (4-2) vs WC) Minnesota Wild (4-3)

Series Schedule

GM 1

Fri 5/2 MIN @ CHI, 8:30 PM CDT

GM 2

Sun 5/4 MIN @ CHI, 2:00 PM CDT

GM 3

Tue 5/6 CHI @ MIN, 8:00 PM CDT

GM 4

Fri 5/9 CHI @ MIN, TBD

GM 5

Sun 5/11 MIN @ CHI, TBD

GM 6

Tue 5/13 CHI @ MIN, TBD

GM 7

Thur 5/15 MIN @ CHI, TBD

Regular Season Results

10/26/2013

MIN 5, @CHI 3

10/28/2013

CHI 5, @ MIN 1

12/5/2013

@MIN 4, CHI 3

1/23/2014

@MIN 2, CHI 1

4/3/2014

@CHI 3, MIN 2 (SO)

Leading Playoff Scorers

CHI

MIN

P

Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith 7

P

Zach Parise, 10

G

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane 3

G

Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle 3

A

Duncan Keith, 5

A

Zach Parise 7

Goalie Matchup

Corey Crawford (4-2, .935 save %, 1.98 GAA, 1 SO) vs Ilya Bryzgalov (1-2, .826 save %, 4.25 GAA, 0 SO)/Darcy Kuemper (3-1, .913 save %, 2.03 GAA, 1 SO)

The Wild pulled off the big upset by knocking off the Central Division champion Avalanche in seven games.  But if it wasn't much of an upset because the Wild absolutely dominated the play at even strength.  They finished the series with a 5v5 59.8 CF%.  If it wasn't for two blown calls the series would have been over a game earlier.  The problem for the Wild is they are not going to be able dominate the puck possession against the Blackhawks. Unlike the Colorado Avalanche, the Blackhawks play NHL caliber defense.  In fact, they play an extremely high level of defense.   The Hawks should be able to turn the tables in the puck possession game because of guys like Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad.

Zach Parise, who went missing in Sochi, is tied for the NHL lead in scoring with 10 points. The second generation star had two goals in the regular season versus the Hawks. Parise's two linemates, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville both enjoyed some regular season success against the Blackhawks.  In the five regular season games Granlund had four assists and Pominville scored four goals to go along with his lone helper.  There is a big dropoff after the Wild's top six as far as scoring goes. Minnesota will need to get production out of their bottom six.  The good news for the Wild is that Dany Heatley lit the lamp and Nino Niederreiter scored twice in their Game 7 win over Colorado.  If the Wild are to have any chance against the Hawks, guys like Heatley and Niederreiter are going to have to come up with some points.

The Wild's defense is lead by their anchor Ryan Suter, the second best defenseman to come out of the Suter family.  He will play about half the game, as he is averaging 29:47 TOI in the playoffs. He is paired with young Jonas Brodin, who has in two short years become one of the more steady blue liners in the league.  This pairing will get all the tough assignments.  Joel Quenneville will have the luxury of being able to pick and chose who he sends out against Minnesota's top pair for the first two games of the series.

The Wild lost their starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom during pregame warmups before Game 1 in last year's playoff series between these two teams.  The Wild's goaltending situation has been a hot mess all seson long.  Minnesota made a low risk/high reward move by acquiring Ilya Bryzgalov at the trade deadline. He started the first two playoff games but lost his starting gig to rookie Darcy Kuemper who played well after taking over.  Kuemper left Game 7 right after giving up the tying goal in the 3rd period with an apparent injury.  Bryzgalov and his 4.25 postseason GAA has already been announced as the Game 1 starter.  That should strike fear into nobody wearing red.

This is a different year and the WIld are an improved team from the one the Hawks knocked out in five games last spring.  But last year the Blackhawks slept walk through their series with the Wild.  This year the Hawks are wide awake after winning four straight against the Blues.  Sure the Wild took three out of the five regular season games, but the playoffs version of the Blackhawks is not the same team from January.  I don't think this series will be any different from last year's, Hawks in five.

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