Hopefully the Chicago Blackhawks didn’t get too comfortable, in their brief return to Chicago, following the 7-game circus trip, becuase they now have to head north, to take on their Central Division rivals, the Minnesota Wild. The Wild, no doubt, are still looking for revenge, for last season’s 1st round playoff exit, at the hands of the Blackhawks.[table “20” not found /]
Statistically speaking, this looks like a great matchup. A great matchup that could go either way, but there might be a slight edge, for the Wild, in this one. While the Wild are well behind the curve in Goals For, they are in the top-10 in Corsi For Percentage, so they are generating chances, with quality puck possession, but may just be the recipients of some bad luck. If their Corsi For stays up there, it will only be a matter of time before they climb the ranks in Goals For, as well as the standings. Both the Blackhawks and the Wild have elite Power Play units, as well as struggling Penalty Kill units, so it wouldn’t be going out on a limb to predict a Power Play goal, or two, in this game.
The Wild are on the cusp of the elite teams, in the Central Division, which isn’t bad position at all. If the Wild were in either of the Eastern Conference divisions, they would be in 2nd place. Being in the elite Central Division, however, leaves the Wild in 4th place, and a bubble team, in the playoff picture. Minnesota is very capable of competing with the elite teams, in the Central, especially with their roster that features plenty of high-quality players. Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu are the Wild’s leaders in offense, with Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter also having solid offensive seasons. Pominville also plays a great two-way game, for the Wild, who are always hard to score against, especially with Ryan Suter leading the way, on the blueline.
Minnesota is also extremely difficult to score against, thanks to the wonderful, and heart-warming season that Josh Harding is having, in net. No matter what team you root for, you have to sort of root for Harding to succeed, considering everything that he has been through, which I won’t get into, in this post, but feel free to look it up, as it makes his success, this season, extra-special.
The Blackhawks nearly prevented the homecoming let down, with a 3 goal rally, in the 2nd period, Tuesday night, but it wasn’t meant to be, and over, was the 6-game winning streak. Not to worry though, as losses and disappointment are expected, as well as necessary, in potential championship seasons. Patrick Kane is coming off being named an NHL Star, during the month of November, while Duncan Keith is coming off being names the 3rd star of the week. Patrick Sharp scored his 200th goal, in a Blackhawks sweater, Tuesday night.
Corey Crawford figures to be in net, for the Hawks, against the Wild. In the 2 previous games played, this season, against Minnesota, Crawford has struggled, with a 3.04 Goals Against Average, as well as a dismal .891 Save Percentage.
The Wild are looking to get themselves into the thick of the NHL’s most heated divisional race, and beating the Blackhawks will do just that. Oh, yeah, and that whole playoff revenge thing as motivation, could possible make things a little more interesting, while the Hawks are looking to get things back on track, even though they aren’t really off-track, but a loss after a 6-game winning streak, on a massive road trip is a definite let-down. It should be a great game!