The Blackhawks faced the Wild three times this season going 2-0-1 and next season they will be in our division. We will know them like the back of our hand after another season or two, but for the first round playoff series I sat down with Dakota Case of the Minnesota Wild site Gone Puck Wild for a Q & A concerning the upcoming playoff series.
BU Question-Which of your players will have to step up to carry the Wild past the Blackhawks?
GPW Answer- . Without a doubt, it’s Devin Setoguchi. Seto is young and has been inconsistent this season, but he has 48 games of playoff experience under his belt and has scored 24 points and three overtime game-winning goals. Without Dany Heatley and Jason Pominville, Minnesota will need all they can get from their second line of Setoguchi, Matt Cullen and rookie speedster Jason Zucker to get past Chicago.
BU Question-How do you think Niklas Backstrom will hold up against the Blackhawks’ offense in a 7 game series?
GPW Answer-Backstrom is a very solid goaltender, one of the very best in the NHL when he’s on his game. You look at the season series between Chicago and Minnesota and Backstrom has been very reliable in the series, except for the Blackhawks 5-3 victory in the United Center. However, he was also a part of a shootout win in a game where he didn’t allow a single goal in relief of Josh Harding and allowed just one goal in Chicago’s 1-0 win in their most recent matchup. If the Wild defense can clean out the garbage in front of the net and give him a good view of the puck, he’ll be fine.
BU Question-What makes the Blackhawks dangerous to the Wild?
GPW Answer- Chicago is just a dominating team in general. They’re four lines deep, it’s as simple as that. They play good hockey and have guys that know how to score, especially when it matters most. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Brandon Saad–need I go on? The biggest difference is that they have more clutch players than any other team in the league. Players like that will take a team a long way.
BU Question-Is there any pressure on Parise and suter to justify their contracts or does making the playoffs justify the contract?
GPW Answer-There’s always going to be pressure–people expect a winning product on the ice after spending that kind of money on two guys. However, if we’re talking pressure, I think all of it is going to be on Chicago after the tremendous season they’ve had. This is the playoffs; the slate has been wiped clean and a new season has begun. Minnesota has gone from being the hunted to being the hunters. There’s no pressure on them–everyone has instantly written them off. The Wild have nothing to lose and that makes them very dangerous and not to be underestimated. Quite frankly, if the Los Angeles Kings can beat the 1st, 2nd and 3rd seeds in the West and beat the New Jersey Devils in six games, I don’t see why Minnesota can’t make such a run.
Bu Question-Who should the Blackhawks look out for?
GPW Answer- It’s a no-brainer they’ll want to keep tabs on the bigger names: Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Ryan Suter, Pominville (if healthy) and Setoguchi. However, the guys to really watch out for are the youngsters. Charlie Coyle is just a beast and has been a major component on the top line with Parise and Koivu all season long. He’s big, he knows how to use his body, is great along the boards, defenders can’t budge him one bit and he’s got a nose for the net. This kid is going to be the next Jonathan Toews. Jason Zucker is a dynamic speedster that commands viewers’ attention every time he steps out onto the ice. He is no stranger when it comes to scoring goals and has developed some great chemistry with Cullen and Seto. This line, when hot, is going to give the likes of Keith and Seabrook fits every time they hop the boards. Then there’s Swedish Sensation Jonas Brodin, a leading candidate for the Calder Trophy and the defensive partner of Ryan Suter. This kid is just a pleasure to watch. At just 19, he’s already one of the very best skaters in the NHL, makes a great first pass, has a hockey I.Q. that’s absolutely off the charts and is a very safe player Mike Yeo trusts in all situations. The guy is also not afraid to lay a hit when needed and has a shot that’s going to be very nasty in just a few years. To be honest, this is a kid that could be a serious contender for the Norris as soon as next season, which is fitting of a guy compared to Nicklas Lidstrom. It’s guys like these three that are going to make this series very fun to watch.
BU Question- What is your prediction for the series?
GPW Answer-My prediction? Anything can happen. However, I have to think Blackhawks in 6 or 7. Minnesota isn’t going to roll over and die; they’ve played well against the Hawks this season. Minnesota is going to be a very interesting team to watch in the next few years and there is no better way to ring in the new realignment with a Wild/Blackhawks series.
Thanks again to Dakota for the time and if you are looking for a Minnesota point of view check out Gone Puck Wild.
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