In just 13 hours, the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks will take to the ice to begin their Western Conference Semi-Final series. It will be the third straight year the two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with the Blackhawks moving on in the previous two years, in five, and six games, respectively.
This year, however, it could be a little different.
The Wild went on an outstanding run to end the season, and fresh of upsetting the Central Division champion St. Louis Blues in the first round, they look to do more of the same with the Stanley Cup-favourite Blackhawks.
Many are pegging this game to go the distance, and lots have the Wild taking it. It’s not for no reason, either: below, we present our top three reasons why the Wild should have Blackhawks’ fans on the edge of their seat all series.
#3: They Know The Blackhawks Better Than Anyone
The Wild are the Blackhawks’ most common opponent over the past three years, with the two teams meeting 24 times since the start of the lockout-shortened 2013 regular season. In that time, though the Blackhawks have the better record of the two teams, the Wild have turned the tide as of late.
On certain nights (in particular the teams’ past two meetings, both Wild victories), it looks like they have the Blackhawks all figured out. In fact, they may. Though they cannot stop the Blackhawks’ offense from putting up shots, they are nearly unstoppable on the penalty-kill, and often have turned it around and burned the Blackhawks’ on a power-play, despite the team ranking 26th in the NHL in that category during the regular season.
Many teams in the league try to match the Blackhawks’ speed with a physical game, but the Wild are easily the most successful at doing so. Like the Blackhawks, the Wild have a minute-munching defenseman in Ryan Suter, and three forwards that are capable of doing the heavy lifting (Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Mikael Granlund), and young depth players that often get the better of their opponents.
The Blackhawks will have to stick to their guns (in this case, their actual guns: the offense) if they want to find their advantage. Poring through the Wild’s blue-line, and firing as many shots on goal as possible is the Blackhawks’ best bet at winning this series.