Playoff Threeview: Chicago & Minnesota
1. Blackhawks 36-7-5 (77 points, 1st in Central, 1st in Conference III) vs. 8. Wild (26-19-3, 55 points, 2nd in Northwest, 3rd in Conference III)
Season Series— Blackhawks 2-0-1 (Minnesota won in a shootout January 30, which means this didn’t happen)
Leaders— Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (23G, 32A, 55 Points, 8 PPG), Jonathan Toews (23 G), Marian Hossa (6 GWG, 3 in OT); Wild: Zach Parise (18G, 20A, 38 Points), Ryan Suter (28A), Clayton Stoner/Cal Clutterbuck (1 Shorthanded Assist)
Probable Goalies: Blackhawks: Corey Crawford (19-5-5, .926, 1.94); Wild: Niklas Backstrom (24-15-3, .909, 2.48)
Words & Music
“When they play like they want to, they can score four or five goals a night and keep it out of their net with maybe one of the best defensemen in the league [in Suter]. It’s a dangerous team. You definitely have to be careful with them. They’re a team that I’ve watched throughout the year and it seems like one night they look like the best team in the NHL and the next night they look like they don’t even want to be out there.” — Patrick Kane to The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc.
The Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” for our old buddy Craig Leipold (he did in July; he won’t in April)
Locks & Keys
The Hawks led the West in goals for and against and nobody in the NHL was better at even strength, which, given the way the playoffs are officiated, is likely where they’ll spend the majority of their time.
You can guarantee Ryan Suter will play roughly 46 minutes a night and that the Xcel Energy Center will be as loud as Minnesotans can muster politely for this, the first post-season appearance for the Fightin’ Adjectives since 2008.
The Blackhawks have been cruising for months and the Wild, just a few days ago, got smoked by Edmonton and more or less backed-in due to an unfortunate (fortunate for Minnesota) no-goal call against Colorado.
The big off-season acquisitions of Suter and Parise were meant to vault the Wild to the league’s elite level — which didn’t really work out — and deadline acquisition Jason Pominville has been spotty in places and is currently nursing a noggin bump.
Call & Response
Hot Goalie Theory or not (and Backstrom isn’t hot), puck don’t lie. Give me talent seven days a week. The Wild will feed off the energetic — if not showy — crowd in St. Paul to grab one at home, but ultimately this one will be Blackhawks in five. It took awhile, but I found one person who makes a very lengthy, YouTube-heavy, pop-up-ad funded case for the Wild (and it wasn’t Russo!).