Apr 7, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin (25) checks Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks and the Minnesota Wild are both set to begin their second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this Friday. Over the next few weeks, these 2 teams will compete against each other to determine who will be the winner of the Central Division. Only one team will advance and have a chance to compete for the Western Conference Title, and perhaps eventually the Stanley Cup.
Who will it be, and how will it all play out? Well I’m glad you asked. The staff here at Blackhawk Up had so much fun with predictions for the Blackhawks vs. Predators series, that we decided to give it another shot for the second round.
In case you were wondering, there was a four-way tie for the winner of the last series. Brian Kasnicka, Zachary Raderstorf, Keith Schultz, and yours truly all predicted the Hawks would beat the Nashville Predators in 6 games. I could argue a slight edge, as I actually predicted the correct outcome of every game (beginner’s luck).
So without further ado…
Just looking at social media after Minnesota dispatched St. Louis, it
appears many ’Hawks fans think the guys in the Indian Head have been
handed a walk to the conference finals. Hopefully the actual ’Hawks don’t
underestimate the Wild as heavily. Chicago held a 3-2 edge in the
regular-season series, but Niklas Backstrom started for the Wild in net in
all three of the ’Hawks’ wins. The ’Hawks played pretty poorly in two
losses against the Devan Dubnyk-led Wild. The ’Hawks won’t be seeing any
of Backstrom in this series unless Dubnyk gets lost coming from the locker
But this is still Chicago’s series to lose, especially having home-ice
advantage. These teams have pretty even records both on the road and at
home, so don’t be surprised to see the ’Hawks win one at Xcel Energy
Center and lose one at the United Center. Two immediate keys here are
Corey Crawford being able to get comfortable in net again and the ’Hawks
continuing to play the defense they displayed for the majority of Game 6
From there, it’s all about putting boatloads of pressure of Dubnyk. Can
the ’Hawks achieve all of this after showing infuriating inconsistency
against Nashville? I’m going to say yes.
’Hawks in 7
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It seems like the last two years this series has gone one extra game longer than it should have. 2013 was 5, 2014 was 6… And though many would say the third time just might be the charm for Minny, I say, something’s gotta give and it’s probably sooner rather than later.
Sure, the Wild are a talented and well coached team with speed and it appears good goaltending but let’s be honest, has Devin Dubnyk actually faced forwards like Toews, Sharp, Hossa, Teuvo, Saad, Kane, Vermette, gosh even Bryan Bickell multiple times in two weeks? Not even bringing into account the Hawks’ blue liners with scoring capabilities. Has he beaten anyone but the lowly, playoff cursed Blues four times in two weeks? The answer is no. He never has.
With the re-shaped lines as they stood at Monday mornings practice, one has to acknowledge that the Blackhawks will be rolling four lines of legitimate scoring threats, prominent and competent two way players and as it shows every year, the talent and experience comes through when needed, just as it did against the Preds. Which means Dubnyk will be facing an all-star team in comparison every other night for at least a week.
Something’s gotta give.
The Wild will have to cool down, and the Hawks are just starting to hit their stride when it matters most. Look for Friday’s game 1 to be the toughest test for the Hawks as they haven’t been terribly successful off the layoff this year. But remember, Dubnyk has to start two games at the United Center before he even heads back to Minnesota, of which he’s never done in May, of which he’s actually only done twice in his career. And if all goes according to plan… Even with the Excel Center being a tough place to play, the Hawks will know they’ll only need one win up north to wrap things up next Saturday back on Madison St.
This series may be tighter than I’ve made it out to be, and I’m probably giving a lot of credit to the Hawks still not being at their best, but look for the Hawks to solidify their favoritism as the Stanley Cup front runner in this series and never look back.
“Light the lamp, cue the dagger! Now it really gets exciting! 12’s the number!”
Hawks in 5
This is a series where home ice is going to be a big difference maker. We all know this Minnesota Wild team is improved from last year, but like last year, I also think the Wild are riding into this series with a degree of false confidence.
Last year the Wild beat a young Colorado Avalanche team with little to no playoff experience in the first round, and it took them seven games to do so with a lot of OT. This year the Wild beat a St. Louis Blues team that has not been able to prove itself in the post season and whose goal tending situation absolutely pales in comparison to what the Blackhawks are packing between the pipes. In other words, the Wild are yet again coming into Chi-Town riding high off a victory over a paper tiger.
Yes Devan Dubnyk is having a great run of it, but the Hawks just beat a similarly built and far more experienced goalie in Pekka Rinne, and they did so with contributions up and down the roster, which was not the case for the Blues.
Like with the Predators, the Hawks will need to use their playoff experience to their advantage. If they can get a 3-2 lead or better, the Hawks will win the series because at that point, the mental and emotional weight of the previous two years will just be too much for the Wild to overcome.
Thus it’ll be absolutely critical for the Hawks to win in the Madhouse on Madison the first two games of this series, just like last year, because if the Wild go into the Xcel Center with any kind of momentum, they’ll be near impossible to beat. Yet, I think the Hawks are up to the challenge. They’ve come up against hot teams before in the post season, and they’ve sent them to the golf course.
Hawks in 6 with a good amount of OT
Apr 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) celebrates with goalie Corey Crawford (50) a win against the Nashville Predators at the end of game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. The Blackhawks won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Each year these two teams meet and each time the Wild get a little better, but this year it’s all about Devan Dubnyk. The Blues started to solve him; will the Hawks be able to consistently score on him? The Hawks usually find a way in these situations.
Now will the real Corey Crawford show up?
Hawks in 7
For the third consecutive year the Hawks and Wild will meet in the playoffs. It took the Hawks five games to dispatch the Wild in 2013, a game six overtime in 2014, and it will take seven games this time around.
Minnesota is a tremendously talented team with a good balance of offense and defense. These two teams, on paper, are neck and neck, so it will take special teams to really swing the momentum in the series. The Hawks have to find a way to score on the power play against Minnesota’s stout penalty kill. If the Hawks can manage to have a decent power play and continue killing penalties the way they are, they should win this series. Devan Dubnyk has been great for the Wild, but if the Hawks can get some good shots on him they will score. He’s not invincible. Let’s not forget the Blues scored six against him in game four.
Hawks in 7
The Hawks have taken care of the Wild in the past two years with relative ease, Minnesota no longer has the lingering questions in goal, since acquiring Devan Dubnyk. With a solid blue-line and potent offense, this team will give the Blackhawks a scare.
The ‘Hawks haven’t done much to show us this team can turn on the jets and leave a team in the dust, and letting the Wild hang around is not a good idea. However this Blackhawks team is still not reaching their full potential, so look for that to happen mid-series here.
Hawks in 7
I was leaning toward 7 until I realized that’s the prevailing view out there. That, and Game 7s scare the crap out of me.
I’ve been browsing some posts by both Hawks and Wild fans, as well as other teams, and have noticed some interesting trends in opinion. Bearing in mind that a lot of folks prefer a Wild win because they hate our team (the price of greatness – I’ll take it), the sentiment is nearly unanimous that it will be the closest and most exciting series.
Exciting, sure. Our team in playoffs is nothing if not exciting. But closest series? I guess that is entirely possible for Round 2 (hello, 2013!) but I think Dubnyk is going to have a Scott Darling moment sooner than later that will cost them the series. What I mean by that (and no disrespect to Scotty), is that his hot moment will go cold. If only they had a Cup-winning goalie who could relieve him…oh, right.
No doubt, the Wild made a remarkable comeback late in the season. With nowhere to go but up after Yeo’s infamous meltdown in January, up they went – at a frenetic pace – to the point where they threatened to pry away 3rd place in the Central Division from our Hawks.
But they didn’t, despite all our struggles and all their successes late in the season. An imperfect Hawks team can make it far if not go all the way. Wild, not so much.
With lessons learned from Round 1, I would be pretty shocked if it took all 7 games to get past Minny.
Hawks in 6
Apr 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) celebrates next to defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) after scoring against the Nashville Predators in the first period in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
The Wild were in trouble earlier this season because they did not have a DECENT goal tender. They got a decent goalie in Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has exceeded expectations with the Wild.This is his best season ever! Ultimately this series is not going to come down to the play of Dubnyk. This series is going to come down of the Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. Last time these two teams met in the playoffs, Crawford stole a game in Minnesota to sow up the series in six games.
This series will be tough and very highly contested. Yes I was wrong about the first series, I am hoping I am right about this one.
Blackhawks in 7
The Minnesota Wild will give the Blackhawks some trouble similar to the way they did last year in the series. You cannot view them as the same team they were throughout the season before acquiring Devan Dubnyk, they are a different team now. If you do so, you will end up looking like a St. Louis Blues fan shocked in disbelief. The Minnesota Wild have a strong fan base and they will provide extra energy to their team in Excel Energy Center. However, this is where the Chicago Blackhawks will be able to overcome adversity. With a franchise record 24 road victories this season the Chicago Blackhawks have proven it doesn’t matter where they play or who they play, they are in it to win it! We saw how they were able to take the momentum away during the Predator series with their comeback antics and they will do the same in the land of 10,000 lakes. Why you ask…..because it’s the playoffs!
Blackhawks in 6
If anyone can solve Dubnyk, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks. I can’t wait to see how these new lines turn out! And they’ll need Keith and Seabrook to contribute offensively as well. Defensively the Hawks need to stand tall to stop this much improved Minnesota Wild team. Be prepared to be very frustrated with Rozsival and Timonen throughout this series.
I think they’ll split games at home, split games in Minnesota, and then each team wins home ice the rest of the way.
It’s going to be a nail biter every game. Get the Tums ready! But experience will prevail in the end.
Hawks in 7
What is your Round 2 prediction?
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