May 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) moves skates past Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center. The Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks will face off against the Minnesota Wild twice in three days. Here are a few thoughts going into the miniseries against our new division opponents.
RIVALRY: This season marks a couple of different rivalries between the Blackhawks and Wild. The two teams faced each other in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, a series that the Blackhawks won 4-1. The Wild had a few issues going into the post season, but were able to fight their way to the last seed in the Western Conference. Not many people predicted the Wild would come out on top in that series, but that didn’t make their defeat any less painful. They’ll look to prove they’re worth taking seriously this season. On top of that, the Wild have joined the Blackhawks in the Central Division and are now division rivals facing each other 5 times this season. Two of the contests will be out of the way in just a few days and will set the tone for the new rivalry.
GOALTENDING: Goaltender injuries seem to plague the Wild. Josh Harding recently suffered a lower body injury and was replaced by Niklas Backstrom who was not fully recovered from a knee strain. With Harding out for a few weeks, the Wild recalled Johan Gustafsson from the AHL to back up recovering Backstrom. Even with the goalie health issues, the Blackhawks have a habit of bringing out the best in goaltenders and it probably won’t be an exception with Backstrom over the next couple of games.
STATS: Although it’s still early in the season, the visiting record of the Wild isn’t looking that great. It’s not terrible. They have a 1-3-1 away record with their only win coming in Buffalo and a shootout loss against the Florida Panthers. But their 1.91 goals against average is much lower than the Blackhawks’ 2.5, and their power play conversions is one of the best in the league at 26.7%. This weekend is an excellent opportunity for the Blackhawks to put a little spark in their PK form.
What are your thoughts going into the miniseries against the Minnesota Wild?