Jan 23, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp (10) exchanges words with Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke (24) in the third period at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
Tomorrow night, the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs finally begins for our beloved Chicago Blackhawks. The Minnesota Wild upset the Colorado Avalanche in a Game 7 thriller last night to move on in the post season and are now about to take on our boys in red, white, and black.
While Chicago denizens are breathing a collective sigh of relief because the Hawks won’t have play Semyon Varlamov in the post season, and raising a collective cheer the Hawks now have home ice advantage, there are a few caveats about the Minnesota Wild that need to be addressed.
While the Blackhawks soundly defeated the Wild in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, this is a whole new year, and the Wild are a whole new animal. If the Hawks come out playing Blackhawks hockey all three periods for each game, there shouldn’t be anything to fear. Even so, here are four warning about the Minnesota Wild:
#4 – They’re Riding High
As I’ve mentioned before, while the St. Louis Blues got all the press after making the biggest trade of the season for Ryan Miller in an attempt to take a run at the Cup, just last year the Wild broke the bank in kind to bring on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Franchises make bold moves like these for a reason, and lofty aspirations don’t just go away. Parise and Suter were brought in to help get the Wild over the hump and breakout in the playoffs, and after upsetting the Colorado Avalanche, their determination just got all the more resolute. Unlike last year, the Wild have their playoff chops, so the Hawks need to be ready to contain their energy.
#3 – They Want Some Payback
Coupled with the aforementioned will undoubtedly be the Wild’s desire for revenge against the Blackhawks. During the first round of the 2013 playoffs, it seemed the Blackhawks barely broke a sweat getting past Minnesota; dropping them in five games which could have easily been a four game sweep had the Wild not squeaked out an OT win. After making such an investment in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Minnesota likely didn’t take kindly to such a humiliatingly early post season exit at the hands of the Hawks. Don’t be surprised to see the Wild come out looking to command respect from the Hawks, and in the process do disrespectful things. The Blackhawks need to make sure not to let an uppity Wild team get under their skin, and play their superior game.
#2 – Zach Parise and Ryan Suter Finally Earning Their $$$$
Speaking of which, this post-season its looks like the Wild are finally starting to get a bit more return on their investment in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Parise has been an offensive architect in the first round of the playoffs, leading the team with 10 points, 7 of which were assists. Suter meanwhile gobbled up an average of 23:28 minutes of ice time per game during the series and did a commendable job corralling Colorado’s high-power offensive players. Again, the Hawks have dealt with the likes of Parise and Suter before, but these two flagships of the Wild are coming in cruising like never before.
#1 – The Blackhawks Have Let Round Two Hubris Get the Better of Them Before
If the Blackhawks facing a seventh seed team in the second round of the playoffs that upset a second seed in the first round sounds familiar, it’s because it is; the Hawks were here before just last year facing the Detroit Red Wings who had upset the Anaheim Ducks in their preceding series. After trouncing the Wild (ironically) in the first round, the Hawks thought the #7 Red Wings would be a comparable pushover. Yet we all know how things played out, don’t we? Had the Hawks not displayed true champion grit, their 2013 Stanley Cup win may have been replaced with a tale of disappointment. Once again this year, the Hawks are coming off a dominant first round performance in the playoffs to face a lower ranked team. Here’s hoping the Hawks have learned from their mistakes, because while many believe the Hawks could come back from a three game deficit again if they had to, why tempt fate?
The Minnesota Wild will be coming in a very hungry team. The good news is the Blackhawks have dealt with this squad before and have an intimate knowledge of how to beat them, but as we know, it’s the playoffs, and anything can happen.
Again, as long as the Hawks play the Blackhawks hockey we know they can consistently and thoroughly, there’s no doubt they can tame the Wild once more en route to the Stanley Cup Finals.
FOR THE DAGGER!