Apr 3, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) skates with the puck in front of Minnesota Wild left wing Erik Haula (56) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Here we go again.
It’s the 2nd round of the playoffs and the 2nd time, in 2 years, that the Chicago Blackhawks will be facing the Minnesota Wild, in a playoff series.
Will the Hawks be able to easily move past the Wild, for a 2nd year in a row?
Can the Wild pull off yet another playoff series upset, much like they did to the Colorado Avalanche.
We’ll find out, as the answers to those questions begin to be answered, with tonight’s Game 1 matchup.
Here’s how the Blackhawks and Wild fared, in their respective 1st round series.
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Everyone thinks the Hawks have the advantage, in this one, and they are correct. Experience and statistics combined make the Hawks the favorite, in this series. Although, it is worth noting that the Wild do have better possession numbers, so far, in the post-season. However, the Wild faced the possession-challenged Avalanche, as math and logic finally caught up to them, and ended their return to relevance, in the 1st round. Credit must be given, to Minnesota, though, since they also struggled with possession, during the regular season.
When it comes to the Hawks’ numbers, they have the advantage, in every category, except the possession categories, which could be considered a bit of foreshadowing. The Hawks are a possession-based team, that contains more offensive fire power, than just about every other team, in the NHL. They were able to score more goals, and give up less goals, all while having the puck less, than the Wild did. The Hawks also faced a very good St. Louis Blues team. The Wild will not be able to sustain that kind of Corsi For Percentage, in this series, which may end up being their undoing.
The Wild are a very good team, and their momentum cannot be denied. They are a much improved team, since the Hawks faced them, in the 1st round, last year. Zach Parise is about as all-around and solid, as it gets, in the NHL. He already has 10 points, in 7 post-season games. The acquisition of Matt Moulson was huge, for a traditionally offensively-challenged Wild. He gives the Hawks another scoring threat to keep an eye on. Dany Heatly, who had a rough regular season, finally started contributing consistently, in the 1st round. Ryan Suter will be on the ice, for about half of the game, and is very dangerous, yet responsible, on the blueline. Suter’s partner, Jonas Brodin is one of the more underrated young defenseman, in the NHL.
In net, for the Wild, in Game 1, will be Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov was acquired, from the Edmonton Oilers, at the trade deadline, as goaltending depth. He is one of 5 goaltenders that have seen time, in the crease, for Minnesota, this season. He came in, during Game 7, against Colorado, as Darcy Keumper went down with an injury. Goaltending may end up being the Achilles heel, of the Wild.
The Blackhawks are well-rested, and good to go. Hopefully they aren’t too rested, as they will need the momentum, of winning 4 games, in a row, during round 1, to help them get off to a fast start, in round 2. Bryan Bickell had an excellent series, against the Blues, as he is becoming a prime-time playoff performer. Same goes for Brent Seabrook, who had an excellent series, as well, even after missing 3 games, due to suspension. Jonathan Toews had a magnificent 1st round, as he is almost a lock to win faceoffs, and he can score clutch goals, like no one else. Patrick Kane is also clutch, and things started coming together, for him, towards the end of the 1st round, as he adjusted to wearing a knee-brace.
In net, for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford. Crawford was great, in the 1st round, and there is little reason to doubt that he won’t be once again, in round 2.
Hopefully the Hawks can take advantage of the fact that they are well-rested, to get off to a fast start, against the not as well-rested Wild. This is an improved Wild team, and the Hawks need to recognize that. That doesn’t mean the Hawks can win this series easily, they just have to want to. It should be a good series!