May 13, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) and Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell (29) battle for position at the top of the Wild crease during overtime of game six of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks clinch the second round with a 2-1 victory over the Wild in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not like the Chicago Blackhawks played poorly in Tuesday night’s home loss to the Colorado Avalanche, and it’s not like the Minnesota Wild played poorly in their Tuesday night home loss to the San Jose Sharks, but something has to give in Minnesota, tonight, as these two frustrated Central Divisional foes faceoff against one another.
This is the 2nd game of the 5-game season series between the Hawks and Wild. The Hawks won the first meeting, on December 16th by a score of 5-3. Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN-Chicago and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Wild.
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Offensively, the Hawks have been very good this season and will be up against the not-so-good Wild defensive game. Defensively, the Hawks are the best in the league and will be up against a Wild offense that has been average this season.
On the Power Play, the Hawks have been average at best and will be tasked with solving a very good Minnesota Penalty Kill. For the Hawks, on the Penalty Kill, they have been the best in the league and will be assigned a Wild Power Play that has been lackluster at best.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great, overall at least, and will be taking draws against a Wild team that has been roughly average, this season. In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are the best in the league, as evidenced by their league-leading Corsi For Percentage. They will be fighting for the puck with a Wild team that has been slightly above-average at controlling the puck.
The paper advantage here has to go to the Hawks. Both teams will be highly motivated after recent disapointment, but the Wild simply don’t posses the firepower that the Hawks do.
The Wild are currently in 6th place in the Central Division, with a record of 18-15-5 which is good for 41 points on the season. They are a far cry from where many expected them to be this season, and frustration reached a boiling point, yesterday, when head coach Mike Yeo went on this profanity-laced tirade during practice. Will it help? Maybe, maybe not. Minnesota has other issues, as they will likely be without star forward, Zach Parise, as his father recently passed. Veteran Mikko Koivu and defenseman Marco Scandella will both also be out for tonight’s contest. The Wild will still have Jason Pominville, Tomas Vanek and most of all, defenseman Ryan Suter in tonight’s game, which is more than what most teams have.
In net for the Wild will likely be Niklas Backstrom, as Darcy Keumper was forced to leave practice early, yesterday. Backstrom has struggled this season to the tune of a .896 Save Percentage in 15 games played this season.
The Hawks are now in 2nd place in the Central Division with a record of 26-12-2, which is good for 54 points on the season and is 2 fewer than the 1st place Nashville Predators. Tonight is the first game of back-to-backs, for the Hawks, as they will head to Alberta to take on the Edmonton Oilers, tomorrow night. If the Hawks want to break out of their recent 4-3-1 “skid” over their last 8 games, sweeping the back-to-backs, on the road(where they’ve lost 3 of their last 4 games) should do the trick. Obviously no one recorded a point during Tuesday’s shutout, not even Patrick Kane, which is more note-worthy than him recording points, this season. Look for Jonathan Toews to put up points tonight, as no one takes losing harder than he does. Including Tuesday’s loss, Marian Hossa has 5 points in his last 5 games in what can be considered his first and quietest hot-streak of the season.
In net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford. Despite recent struggles, Crawford was solid on Tuesday night and is looking to build momentum, so look for a strong performance from Crow, tonight.
Getting shutout at home, 54 shots-on-goal or not, is embarrassing and the Hawks should come out fast, tonight, to make sure they don’t fall behind early, yet again. However, it can be argued that the Wild will come out even hungrier and definitely more desperate, tonight, so it won’t be easy.