Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild First Round Preview
We begin our NHL playoff preview with the President Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks versus the Minnesota Wild.
At first glance this series looks like an easy win for Chicago. They won 36 of 48 games and had a historic start to the season. The Wild played well in stretches but needed a win against the worst team in the West in their last game to make the playoffs.
Let’s break this series down:
Overall Talent – The Blackhawks can boast maybe the best 5-man unit in the NHL with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa or Patrick Sharp and the combination of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on defence. The Wild have three elite players in Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter but they do not have the depth to match the Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have re-captured the depth that propelled them to a Stanley Cup in 2010.
Major edge – Chicago
Goaltending – On paper, this is the one area where Minnesota has a shot to upset the Blackhawks. Niklas Backstrom has consistently been one of the better goaltenders in the NHL and at his peak can steal a series. Corey Crawford should be able to play Backstrom at least to a standstill and let the Blackhawks superior talent win the series.
No edge either way
Coaching – Mike Yeo has a solid pedigree as a minor league coach and has led the Wild to a playoff spot for the first time since 2007-08. No matter his history he doesn’t match Joel Quenneville’s experience and his Stanley Cup ring.
Edge – Chicago
Specialty Teams – Surprisingly, Chicago only had the 19th ranked power play in the league while Minnesota’s ranked 16th. I have to imagine that the Hawks elite offensive talent will win out through the playoffs, especially against Minnesota’s 18th ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks have a number of excellent penalty killers and ranked third in the NHL.
Edge – Chicago
I think the Blackhawks have too much talent, especially on the third and fourth lines to complement their elite offensive talent. Their forecheck will wear down the Suter/Brodin defense pair over the course of the series. I think the Wild manage to win one game on home ice but Chicago wins in 5 games.