Oct 28, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
If you missed yesterday’s preview,of the Hawks/Wild forwards matchup, you cna find it here.
In a rematch of last year’s 1st round playoff series, the Chicago Blackhawks will take on the Minnesota Wild, in the 2nd round, of the 2014 playoffs. While the Blackhawks are considered Stanley Cup contenders, the Wild are a bit of a 2nd round surprise, as they were expected to be defeated, by the Colorado Avalanche.
Will the Blackhawks be able to easily dispatch the Wild, for a 2nd season, in a row?
Or will the Wild be able to make it two series upsets, in a row?
We’ll find out eventually, but let’s try and make a more educated guess.
Here we will take a look at how the defensemen, of the Blackhawks and Wild matchup, against one another.
Here’s how the Blackhawks’ defensemen fared, during the regular season.
[table id=36 /]
Just like the Hawks’ forwards, all of the Hawks’ defensemen have Corsi For Percentages, above 50%. This isn’t exactly shocking, seeing as how the Hawks were ranked 2nd, in the NHL, with a team Corsi For Percentage of 55.2%.
Michal Rozsival leads the way, in Corsi For, which may come as a bit of a surprise. In all honesty, Rozsival was a bit sheltered, throughout the season, with matchups, against opponents. He played limited minutes and missed time with injury. With all due respect to Rozsival, his Corsi For may be a little misleading.
Nick Leddy, who was often paired with Rozsival, was slightly sheltered, but not completely. Most of Leddy’s deployment, from Head Coach Joel Quenneville, was strategical. Leddy typically started his shifts, in the offensive zone, due to his patience with the puck, and good offensive instincts, and as a result, he was on the ice and helped create more scoring chances, for the Hawks.
Brent Seabrook, didn’t exactly have his best season, I don’t care what Eddie O’ says, but Seabrook was a bit off, this season. He wasn’t terrible, by any means. The high Corsi For, is largely due to the luxury of playing with the supreme puck-mover/ice-tilter, Duncan Keith. Seabrook still possessed that booming shot, which turned out to be so clutch, in last year’s playoffs, and he also brings physicality, to his game.
Duncan Keith had a Norris quality season, in 2013-2014. He is the motor that propels the Hawks attack, and is arguably the most important player, on the roster. Keith get’s the puck moving, and is the most vital cog, in the Hawks’ puck-possession excellence. Keith also has one of the most active sticks, in the NHL, and can strip the puck from opponents, with the best of them. Where Keith goes, so do the Hawks. It was fortunate that he got lots of rest, as Coach Q will be relying on him heavily, throughout the playoffs.
While Keith had a Norris worthy season, Niklas Hjalmarsson was the best defensive defenseman, for the Hawks, all-season. Hjalmarsson is one of the best shot blockers, in the NHL. He starts most of his shifts, in the defensive zone, due to his defense-first instincts, and his shot-blocking ability. With this in mind, it is very impressive that he was able to churn out a above 50% Corsi For Percentage.
Johnny Oduya was brought in to be an offensive defenseman, but he has settled in as Hjalmarsson’s partner, on the blueline, with a defense-first mentality. Oduya makes his mistakes, as he is an offensively-minded defenseman, but he is also a big reason Hjalmarsson was able to achieve an above 50% Corsi For, as he is able to move the puck efficiently.
Let’s take a look at how the Hawks’ defensemen performed, in their 1st round series, against the St. Louis Blues.
[table id=52 /]
Nick Leddy and Michal Rozsival’s high possession numbers are a bit of a mirage, as he started mostly, in the offensive zone. Nevertheless, he didn’t make many mistakes, and as able to move the puck, when the team needed him to.
Brent Seabrook did in fact step his game up, for the post-season, with the exception of his suspension, of course. His defensive partner, Duncan Keith, didn’t have the Corsi to show how well he played. He certainly had the points to prove it, and he also played incredibly well, in the defensive zone, in the 1st round.
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya has poor Corsi numbers, as expected, since the pair almost always start their shifts, in the defensive zone. Hjalmarsson had an excellent series, blocking big shots, against the Blues. Oduya was able to put up 3 points, in 6 games, and played was able to move the puck well.
Sheldon Brookbank filled in quite admirably, when Seabrook was out, for his 3 game suspension. Brookbank held his own, defensively, and was able to collect 2 assists, in 3 games.
For a preview, of Minnesota’s defensemen, head to the next page.