The Minnesota Wild are set to face the Chicago Blackhawks for the third consecutive season in the playoff and second straight in the second round. The Wild knocked off the Central Division champion St. Louis Blues in six games while the third-seeded Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators in six games.
Game 1 – Friday, May 1, at United Center, 8:30 p.m. – TV: NBCSN. Radio: 100.3 KFAN
Game 2 – Sunday, May 3, at United Center, 7:30 p.m. – TV: NBCSN. Radio: 100.3 KFAN
Game 3 – Tuesday, May 5, at Xcel Energy Center, 7:00 p.m. – TV: NBCSN. Radio: 100.3 KFAN
Game 4 – Thursday, May 7, at Xcel Energy Center, 8:30 p.m. – TV: NBCSN. Radio: 100.3 KFAN
Game 5 – Saturday, May 9, at United Center, TBD. TV: TBD. Radio: 100.3 KFAN
Game 6 – Monday, May 11, at Xcel Energy Center, TBD. TV: TBD. Radio: 100.3 KFAN
Game 7 – Wednesday, May 13, at United Center, TBD. TV: TBD. Radio: 100.3 KFAN
The Blackhawks won the season series with a 3-2 record. However, the series can broken down into two segments, pre-Dubnyk and with Dubnyk. The Blackhawks won all three games before the Devan Dubnyk trade by a combined score of 12-5. All three games came between Dec. 16 and Jan. 11.
After the Wild acquired Dubnyk on Jan. 14, the Wild won their final two meetings with the Blackhawks by a combined score of 5-1.
Mikko Koivu led all Wild scorers with four points, one goal and three assists, against the Blackhawks this season. Also contributing were Jason Zucker (3 goals-0 zero assists=3 points), Jason Pominville (1-2=3), Mikael Granlund (2-0=2), Thomas Vanek (1-1=2), Nino Niederreiter (1-1=2), Marco Scandella (1-1=2), Zach Parise (0-2=2), Mikael Granlund (0-1=1), Christian Folin (0-1=1), Chris Stewart (0-1=1) and Ryan Suter (0-1=1).
In goal for the Wild, Dubnyk posted a 2-0 record with a 0.50 goals against average and .982 save percentage in two games against the Blackhawks this season. Niklas Backstrom started all three of the other games and finished with an 0-3 record, 3.71 goals against average and .880 save percentage against the Blackhawks. Darcy Kuemper did not play in any of the five games this season.
The Blackhawks were led by Patrick Kane’s eight points (2-6). Also scoring for the Blackhawks were Jonathan Toews (1-5=6), Bryan Bickell (4-1=5), Brad Richards (1-4=5), Marian Hossa (2-1=3), Brent Seabrook (1-2=3), Patrick Sharp (1-1=2), Johnny Oduya (1-0=1),Kris Versteeg (0-1=1), Marcus Kruger (0-1=1), David Rundblad (0-1=1), Andrew Shaw (0-1=1), Brandon Saad (0-1=1) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (0-1=1).
In goal for the Blackhawks, Corey Crawford started four games and finished with a 2-2 record. He posted a 2.02 goals against average and .948 save percentage in those four games. Antti Raanta started the other game and won it while posting a 3.02 goals against average and .897 save percentage. Scott Darling did not play a game against the Wild this season.
Projected Wild Lineup
First Line: Nino Niederreiter – Mikko Koivu – Chris Stewart
Second Line: Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Third Line: Jason Zucker – Charlie Coyle – Thomas Vanek
Fourth Line: Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Justin Fontaine
Extra Forwards: Sean Bergenheim, Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder
First Defense Pairing: Jonas Brodin – Ryan Suter
Second Defense Pairing: Marco Scandella – Jared Spurgeon
Third Defense Pairing: Jordan Leopold – Matt Dumba
Extra Defensemen: Christian Folin, Nate Prosser
Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk
Backup Goaltender: Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper
Projected Blackhawks Lineup
First Line: Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Second Line: Bryan Bickell – Brad Richards – Patrick Kane
Third Line: Patrick Sharp – Antoine Vermette – Teuvo Teravainen
Fourth Line: Andrew Desjardins – Marcus Kruger – Andrew Shaw
Extra Forwards: Daniel Carcillo, Joakim Nordstrom, Kris Versteeg
First Defense Pairing: Duncan Keith – Michal Rozsival
Second Defense Pairing: Kimmo Timonen – Brent Seabrook
Third Defense Pairing: Niklas Hjalmarsson – Johnny Oduya
Extra Defensemen: Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, David Rundblad
Goaltender: Corey Crawford
Backup Goaltender: Scott Darling, Antti Raanta
The Wild were the best team in the NHL since mid-January. The Blackhawks are a thorn in their side. The Wild would like nothing more than to defeat the team that has ended their season in back-to-back seasons.
The Wild were completely overmatched the first go around, but last season’s series was far less decisive. The Wild felt like they should have won the series.
This time, the Wild should feel like they should be favored. Right now, their goaltending is better, their defense is playing better right now and they have more scoring depth. However, the Blackhawks still have Kane, Toews, Hossa and Bickell.
Prediction: Wild in six