Here we are, ladies and gents. Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Pla…wait. Tampa Bay and Detroit still have a first-round game left? Sigh. The Red Wings are the constantly coddled problem child of this league.
Well, the Chicago Blackhawks (AKA Chicago Blacks) are in the second round of the playoffs, along with six (seven tomorrow) other teams. The ’Hawks have drawn a somewhat familiar opponent in the Minnesota Wild.
They’re “somewhat familiar” since it’s near impossible to keep a roster 100 percent intact from one season to the next in the salary cap era. But a lot of the key components still exist on each squad from their previous two playoff encounters.
The ’Hawks defeated the Wild in 2013’s first round, en route to a Stanley Cup, and in 2014’s second round. So is the third time the charm for Minnesota? (You just said “Minnesota” in that weird voice people try to imitate all the time. Admit it.) Here are five reasons why the answer to that question is “no,” and why the ’Hawks will advance to their third consecutive Western Conference finals series:
Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Home ice counts for something. Despite the Wild being driven into the ground by abhorrent goaltending between the beginning of October and the middle of January (when they acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk), they straightened the ship out in impressive enough fashion to earn the West’s first wild card spot. In fact, they finished a measly two points behind the ’Hawks in the regular season. And both teams’ home and road records reflect that:
Chicago: 48-28-6 overall, 24-12-5 home, 24-16-1 road
Minnesota: 46-28-8 overall, 22-13-6 home, 24-15-2 road
Something that sticks out through those numbers is that both teams have experienced great success in opposing arenas. The ’Hawks set a franchise record for most regular-season road victories. The teams’ home marks are pretty much the same as well. So, what does it mean for a seven-game series? That the wins and losses could go according to who’s at home, like they did last year until the ’Hawks took Game 6 in Minnesota. Or that we could witness a repeat of what Tampa and Detroit currently are doing, which is repeatedly throwing home ice straight out the window.
Da Windy City
Given both teams’ road records, it’s hard to say which type of series we might see. But it’s clear both teams are plenty comfortable on their home ice. The ’Hawks tied for the first-round lead in home goals scored (with Nashville at 10) and permitted five at the United Center. The Wild actually scored just four home goals and allowed seven, but six of those came in a single game against St. Louis. The ’Hawks can use the UC ice to keep Michal Rozsival and Kimmo Timonen in more favorable matchups, while the Wild can use the ice at Xcel Energy Center to pit Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin against Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. In the end, the ’Hawks have one more potential home game in this series than Minnesota. It may make all the difference.