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5 keys for Blackhawks series victory against Wild

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Chicago will meet Minnesota for the third time in the postseason and second time in the Western Conference Semifinals. Here are five key factors to a series win for the Blackhawks.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

For the third straight spring the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild will meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Last year, the Hawks dispatched the Wild in six games. The first five games in the series were won by the home team. Patrick Kane scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 to clinch the series in Minnesota.

The teams also met in the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals, which Chicago won in five games.

These teams are different from last year and from when they started the 2014-15 regular-season. Here are five key factors for a Hawks series victory against the Wild:

1. Solve Rubix the Dubnyk

Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk saved the Wild's season and probably coach Mike Yeo's job with his performance in net. Without Dubynk, the Wild most likely aren't in the playoffs. He went 27-9-2 with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and five shutouts in the regular season for Minnesota after being acquired Jan. 15 from the Arizona Coyotes for a 2015 third-round draft pick.

Dubynk gave up nine goals in the first-round series against the St. Louis Blues, including six in Game 3 at home. But he bounced back stopping 66 of 68 shots during the next two games to close out the series. In all four victories, he held the Blues to just two or fewer goals in all four victories, including a 3-0 shutout in Game 1 on the road.

He went 2-0 against the Hawks this season, stopping 56 of 57 shots in those games. Dubynk is a road warrior, recording 11 of the Wild's 12 consecutive road victories from Feb. 18 to April 9. The Hawks already solved one Vezina Trophy finalist - Pekka Rinne - and now they'll have another one on their hands.

2. Cure the blue line blues

The Hawks defense hasn't been their strong suit all season and it was on full display in the first round. They struggled to gain momentum early, allowing three goals in the first period of Game 1. It wasn't the only three-goal period they gave up: third period of Game 2 and Game 5 and first period of Game 6. The Hawks tighten up their blue line in the third period of Game 6, giving up only four shots on goal. A strong defensive effort like the last period they skated will pay dividends to stopping the Wild's top players.

3. Special Teams

The Hawks have struggled with special teams so far in the playoffs. They were 16-of-22 on the penalty kill for a 72.7 percentage and 3-to-19 on the power play for a 15.8 percentage in the first round. The penalty kill has a key to the Hawks playoff success in recent years, including only allowing seven goals on 67 chances during the 2013 Cup win. The penalty kill was one of the best in league history at the start of the season, but has dropped off since the calendar turned to April. The Predators picked it apart, scoring six power-play goals.

Conversely, the Wild have one of the top PK units at 86.3 percent and they converted 25 percent (4-of-12) of their chances with the man-advantage against the Blues. The Hawks committed 22 penalties against the Preds, and they have to be more disciplined against the Wild to limit chances.

4. Steady Corey Crawford

The Hawks have made the Western Conference semifinals the past three seasons in large part to Corey Crawford's play between the pipes. He was 27-15 with a .923 save percentage the past two seasons, including holding opponents to two goals or fewer in 24 of those 42 games -- 57 percent. The defense has to improve to give Crawford a better chance to stop the puck, but he must also not allow soft goals. The Hawks cannot rely on their offense to get them to the next round as they did with Nashville.

5. Stars need to perform; Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell start scoring

The Blackhawks are a star-driven team. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook all combined for 12 goals and 36 points in the first round. The rest of the Hawks had just six goals and 17 points. But for all the offensive efforts, Hossa has yet to score a goal in 18 playoff games. Another player that needs to find the back of the net is Bryan Bickell, who also has not scored a goal in this postseason. So while the core delivers the most -- and they should -- the rest of the team: Bickell, Brandon Saad, Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette, etc. need to pick up their game, too.

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