Chicago Blackhawks Set for Annual Tradition of Facing Minnesota Wild in Playoffs

By Brian Kinkade

Apr 7, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Wild center Kyle Brodziak (21) shoots the puck against Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Seriously, at this point it’s basically like Thanksgiving or Flag Day.  Here we are though!  The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild are set to open their third playoff series in three years, tonight at the United Center.

Tonight’s Game One of the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, between the Hawks and Wild, is set for a 8:30 PM Central Time Puck Drop.  The game can be seen on NBCSN and can be heard on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s how the Hawks and Wild have statistically fared throughout the playoffs so far.

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It would be wise to expect the Hawks Goals For numbers to drop this series.  Also, they would be wise to dramatically lower their Goals Against numbers.  It should happen though.

Minnesota had the best Penalty Kill in the NHL, during the regular season.  While that unit didn’t do quite as well in their 1st round series against the St. Louis Blues, the PK unit still did a respectable job.  With the Hawks’ Power Play has been playing, the Wild should expect their PK Percentage to rise in this series.

The Hawks had the best Penalty Kill throughout most of the season, but it struggled down the stretch and in the 1st round against the Nashville Predators.  This must get fixed if the Hawks want to advance past the Wild, who’s Power Play was hilariously good in the 1st round.

Puck-possession at scoring chances is where the Hawks hold a big advantage.  In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have the upper-hand on the Wild and the Hawks improved in this department as their 1st round series went on.  The advantage in shot attempts

The advantage in shot attempts, as evidenced by SAT Percentage, goes to the Hawks in a big way.  Typically, this is the best indicator of success.  However, getting quality shot attempts against Minnesota will be difficult, but the more the Hawks have the puck in Minnesota’s zone, the better(obviously).

The Wild’s leading scorer through the 1st round was Zach Parise, and he must be kept in at least relative check if the Hawks want to win.  It isn’t all Parise, though.  His usual center, Mikael Granlund is vastly underrated and his fellow winger, Jason Pominville is far from a slouch.  These three make up Minnesota’s top-line as well as their top scorers in the 1st round.

Minnesota has scoring depth too, which is something they have lacked throughout their brief history.  Jason Zucker is a very dangerous scoring threat, along with the well-known but recently inconsistent Thomas Vanek.  Both Zucker and Vanek skate on the third line with Charlie Coyle.  The second line centered by Mikko Koivu is typically used as an effective shutdown line.

On the blueline, the Wild have all-world freak of a defenseman, Ryan Suter manning the top pairing with Jonas Brodin.  Suter isn’t really a puck-driver, but more of a true defenseman who can skate very well and play roughly 30 minutes per night.  Generating quality scoring chances against him and Brodin is one of the tougher tasks in the NHL

The 2nd d-pairing of Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon are more of an offensively threatening combo.  The 3rd pairing of Jordan Leopold and Matt Dumba could be an Achilles heel for the Wild. This will be especially true in Games One and Two and potentially in a Game Five or Seven, when the Hawks are at home and Coach Q has last-change on his lineups.

The big story for the Wild is in net with Devan Dubnyk.  After being acquired via trade with the Arizona Coyotes in January, Dubnyk went 27-9-2 with a stellar .936 Save Percentage and the Wild went from cellar-dweller to Wild Card winner.

The Hawks seem to have the forward lines going into Game One that everyone wants.  Jonathan Toews centers the top-line with Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad as his wings.  Brad Richards and Patrick Kane will be joined by known Wild killer Bryan Bickell on the 2nd line.

The 3rd line should be an effective one with Antoine Vermette centering Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen.  The 4th line has Marcus Kruger centering Andrew Desjardins and Andrew Shaw.

Corey Crawford and his new mask will be starting between the pipes for the Hawks.  Hopefully, Crawford can get back to his elite late season form.

Hopefully, the third time is not a charm for the Wild.  Every year the Hawks and Wild have met in the playoffs, the Wild have come into the series as a better team than the year before.  This year will be no exception, so the Hawks will have to play a much better series than they did in the first round.

Go Hawks!