It took until the very last game of the season for the Chicago Blackhawks to find out who they will face in the first 7-game series of the postseason. The Minnesota Wild managed to win the honors by way of a tie-breaker with the Columbus Blue Jackets. So here are 5 quick facts to help get familiar with the Blackhawks’ next playoff opponent and future division rival.
Final record: 26-19-3, 55 points
The Wild have a respectable record that barely put them above the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 24-17-7 record (55 points) for the 8th seed in the playoffs. They went 4-5-1 in their last 10 games and fell from 6th to 8th in their lackluster playoff push. Hopefully that means they’ll be coming in a little colder than the Blackhawks’ alternative opponents, the Blue Jackets.
Negative goal differential
The Wild are the only team in the playoffs with a negative goal differential, having been outscored by their opponents by 5. This may not be a fair comparison since they are the best in the league, but the Blackhawks are a +53 in this department.
The Wild made the biggest splash over the summer by acquiring both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. It has paid off with both Parise and Suter landing in the team’s top three in points. Parise with 38 (18G, 20A), Mikko Koivu with 37 (11G, 26A), and Suter with 32 (4G, 28A) round out the top three.
Special teams will make a big difference in the playoffs, and the Blackhawks will have some work to do to bring down the 17.9% PP conversion of the Wild. Fortunately, the Blackhawks have one of the best PK percentages in the league with an 87.2% kill rate. The Blackhawks need to improve their mediocre 16.7% PP conversion rate against the Wild’s PK 80.7%.
Let’s just say that the Wild aren’t as blessed as the Blackhawks when it comes to rotating goaltenders this year. Niklas Backstrom is undoubtedly their top goalie, taking a huge load of games for the Wild playing in 42 of 48 games. He’s one of the league leaders in wins with a record of 24-15-3-2 and a .909 save percentage with 2.48 goals against average. Last year, the Blackhawks went up against a goaltender going into the playoffs with .930 SV% and 2.21 GAA.
Averages and statistics don’t mean much once the series actually begins since all teams ratchet up their game a couple of notches, but the Wild managed to snag a playoff spot by the skin of their teeth after sitting in the 6th spot for a few weeks. They’ll need to regroup and make a whole lot of improvements if they want to win this series against the Blackhawks who are consistent, confident, well-rested, and a fairly healthy team.
Which of these facts about the Wild do you think will help or hurt the Blackhawks the most in the first playoffs series?