It’s almost here. Mere hours separate Blackhawks fans from the first round battle against the Minnesota Wild. Even though the Hawks are ranked #1, they will have to notch up the intensity, and play exceptional hockey to beat the Wild. Here’s three quick things they have to avoid, if they want to move on.
Getting Down Early
The Wild are a team that can take their opponent by surprise, and the Blackhawks need to avoid this, especially on the road. Minnesota wins over 75% of games they score first, and with offensive weapons such as Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, they have the ability to put the puck in the net early. Chicago is not a stranger to fast starts, (St. Louis) so they will need a good play to turn the tide early on. If they find themselves under pressure, they need to either get a whistle by covering the puck or icing, or force a turnover and take it behind the net where they can start their breakout The Blackhawk breakout is something that has impressed all fans this season, and quick, short passes will make sure that the Blackhawks forwards penetrate the Minnesota blue-line and gain an offensive chance. With Duncan Keith leading the shutdown d-corps, they should stifle the Wild attack and create some of their own.
Get Sucked into physical play
Even with all the Blackhawks success in the regular season, they ranked last in one important statistical category: hits. Minnesota’s big bodies such as Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi led the team in hits this year, and they will try to lay the body on anything in red. Minnesota’s defense is not good enough to stop the Chicago attack, (no defense is) so they will have to rely on big hits from those players. Blackhawks forwards such as Patrick Kane will be forced to keep their heads up during this series, as a big hit could come from nowhere. What they will have to do is be passive on the rush, and take it to the offensive zone and set up. This will let traffic get to the top of the crease, and set the stage for some heavy shots from Brent Seabrook and the rest of the Chicago defense. When the play is slowed down, players are more aware of their surroundings. Big hits usually happen on fast plays, so if the Blackhawks stay methodical and controlled in the offensive zone they won’t have any physical trouble.
Take their opponent lightly
It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs. Just last year, we saw a #8 seed finish off the President’s Trophy winners in six games, and take it all the way to win their first Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL; it’s time to prove it. Nothing comes without hard work, and that is something that has been there since the very first game of the season. With nine returning players from the 2010 team, alongside a good mix of playoff-tested pickups, and young, energetic players, the Hawks have the team in place to win a Stanley Cup. Joel Quenneville has to keep the team focused on each game, and not to look at the big picture.
The Blackhawks have “One Goal.” Well, it’s time to man up, boys. This is where it counts.
Game 1 goes tonight at 7 CT (If you didn’t already know that.)
LETS GO HAWKS!
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