Second-round preview: Hawks-Wild

Discussion in 'Chicago Blackhawks Forum' started by Ski-Whiz, May 1, 2014.

  1. Ski-Whiz

    Ski-Whiz George Halas Staff Member

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    [​IMG]AP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltPatrick Sharp is one of the many players being counted on to deliver for the Blackhawks.
    These two teams meet in the playoffs for the second straight postseason, although there's a much different feel about this Minnesota Wild team than a season ago, when they backed into the postseason and were easy pickings for a Chicago Blackhawks team that dispatched them in five games. This time, the Blackhawks are humming, coming off four straight wins against the St. Louis Blues after dropping the first two games in emotional overtime losses, and they have shown no early signs of the dreaded Stanley Cup hangover. The Wild, meanwhile, dropped the first two against the Colorado Avalanche, trailed 3-2 in the series and then in Game 7 had to erase four different one-goal deficits before winning in overtime on Nino Niederreiter's wicked wrist shot. In other words, this is a team that's got tons of heart.
    Spotlight On
    Blackhawks: Team offense
    The Blackhawks are absolutely cooking offensively. After dropping the first two games of the opening-round series against the Blues, the Blackhawks moved into high gear, outscoring the Blues 14-6 in the final four games while averaging 3.33 goals per game through the six-game set against one of the top defensive teams in the NHL. Six players scored more than once in the series, 12 players had at least one goal and they were perfect in games in which they scored first (and 0-for-2 in games they did not). Perhaps most impressive is that the team's best players are already in peak form early in the playoffs. Patrick Kane has three goals, Duncan Keith is tied for the team lead with seven points, Brent Seabrook has six points, even though he was suspended for half the first-round series for his vicious hit on David Backes, and all captain Jonathan Toews has done is score three game winners. On the other side of the puck, the Blackhawks have been at the top of their game killing penalties, allowing just two power-play goals on 29 opportunities. In short, the Blackhawks are rolling, and that's a scary thing for the Wild.
    Wild: Goaltending
    What a wacky team these Wild are when it comes to goaltending. Ilya Bryzgalov was ordinary at best as the Wild fell behind 2-0 in the series, allowing eight goals and turning in an .822 save percentage. Bryzgalov, picked up from the Edmonton Oilers at the trade deadline, was replaced by rookie Darcy Kuemper, who had been injured, and Kuemper led the Wild back into the series with three wins in four games. But Kuemper was hurt in the third period of Game 7, forcing Bryzgalov back into the net, and he shut down the Avs the rest of the way, though he was not severely tested. I can't imagine Bryzgalov can put together enough quality starts for the Wild to have a shot at defeating the Blackhawks, which means the team's hopes rest with the ability of Kuemper to get back into playing shape. But if history has told us anything, we haven't likely seen the last of Bryzgalov.
    Hero In Waiting
    Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp
    It was an unusually pedestrian start to the playoffs for Patrick Sharp, who led the Blackhawks during the regular season with 34 goals, 78 points and 10 power-play goals (tied with Kane). Sharp managed to collect just one goal and zero assists in six games, although his lone goal was a huge one in Game 6, in which he managed to slide the puck past Blues netminder Ryan Miller in spite of being high-sticked in the face on a breakaway. Sharp's reputation in recent years has been that of the consummate money player. It's why he was named to Canada's Olympic team and it's why he was in the playoff MVP discussion last spring, when he had 10 goals and 16 points as the Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in four seasons. Sharp will make his presence known sooner than later.
    Wild: Zach Parise
    Lots of folks took turns stepping forward for the Wild in the first round, from Niederreiter, who had two goals in Game 7, to Erik Haula to Charlie Coyle, who tied for the team lead with three goals, and even former sniper Dany Heatley, who had five points. But for us, a tip of the hat to Zach Parise, who was a force, leading the team with 10 points. Last spring was a disappointing turn for Parise, who had just one point -- a goal -- in his first playoff appearance since signing that monster deal in the summer of 2012. His leadership will be key to the Wild hanging in against the defending champs in much the same way that Toews is so crucial to the Blackhawks' on-ice identity.
    Fatal Flaw
    Blackhawks: Fatigue
    OK, so the Blackhawks blew a lead late in Games 1 and 2, but that seems like a million years ago, no? And their power play was fairly tepid, scoring three times on 20 chances against the Blues. But for us, if there is a flaw with this team that could reveal itself, it is fatigue. In 2013, they eased into the postseason with a workmanlike five-game series victory over the Wild and then fell behind against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round before ramping things up. How much did the first round against the Blues take out of the Blackhawks? Maybe they hit their prime earlier, but what if emotional/physical fatigue becomes a factor sooner than later? And what if sooner means in this series? Just saying.
    Wild: Drive
    Well, if Kuemper can't go and Bryzgalov can't get his act together, this series will get over in a hurry. But if the Wild goaltending is respectable, the question will be the Wild's mindset after such a grueling series against the Avs. Last season, this team was happy to get into the playoffs -- and it looked like it. Are they happy just to be in the second round? It'll be up to the strong leadership core of Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Matt Moulson et al to keep the emotional level in the right place. It won't be an easy task.
    Prediction
    It says here the Wild are going to be a mighty thorn in the side of the Blackhawks, especially if they can keep getting balanced scoring and their strong penalty kill continues (they allowed just three goals on 25 chances). We wish we had the chutzpah to pick them to pull off the upset, but the Blackhawks have too much going on for the Wild, from a refocused Corey Crawford in net to their big guns firing.
    Blackhawks in 6
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  2. shark86x

    shark86x Pro-Bowler SuperFan

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    fatigue? We just had 3 days off and an easy practice day. I'd say the wild is more fatigued coming off a 7 game series that ended in OT late last night.
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  3. Ski-Whiz

    Ski-Whiz George Halas Staff Member

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    I didn't agree with that either. I think they are talking about how physical the games were. The Blues are big toughies.. Part of their play is based on physical domination.

    I agree, the BlackHawks are not affected. If anything this week off will put us back to where we were before the playoffs.
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  4. 4th and 26

    4th and 26 George Halas Staff Member

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    [​IMG]
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  5. Chicagoan

    Chicagoan Hall of Famer

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    let's do this!!!!!
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  6. little bear

    little bear Assistant Head Coach

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    Fail :D
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  7. Chicagoan

    Chicagoan Hall of Famer

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    no doubt! was that a let down or what?! I can't count the amount of times I wanted to just shut that game off.
  8. The Benjamin

    The Benjamin George Halas Staff Member

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    The Wild are apparently better than we though.

    Especially at home. They are suffocating on defense.
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  9. Chicagoan

    Chicagoan Hall of Famer

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    totally agree, Benji. Cooke coming back didn't help either. he was well rested and all over us.
  10. Ski-Whiz

    Ski-Whiz George Halas Staff Member

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    The are simply out skating us. They are all over the puck.

    Our passing is sloppy..
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  11. 4th and 26

    4th and 26 George Halas Staff Member

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    The hawks just look out of place with the sloppy play. Crawford is looking human and our team looks like they do not want to play. Lets end this series with back to back wins.
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  12. vmx12

    vmx12 Rookie

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    More sloppy play. I'd say they're done.
  13. shark86x

    shark86x Pro-Bowler SuperFan

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    Aint done yet. 2 chances to win 1. Then they'll be done ... Done with the wild!
  14. Ski-Whiz

    Ski-Whiz George Halas Staff Member

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    We are holding on to a string. I'm hoping they show up when it counts.

    I missed this game, but from what I read it's the same old sloppyness.
  15. The Benjamin

    The Benjamin George Halas Staff Member

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    Looks sloppy. Looks like they completely unprepared for the type of game the Wild plays
  16. shark86x

    shark86x Pro-Bowler SuperFan

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    First period was horrible. Couldn't complete a pass. Out of position. turnovers. Couldn't win a faceoff. Weak penalty call against us 20 seconds in. They interfere with Keith and trip him center ice and get a goal because of it (of course no call).

    They played better in the 2nd, but still not the team we know. Played better in the 3rd.

    I have to admit, the wild is a much better team than I gave them credit for. Stifling defense, opportunistic offense.

    I think the guys can wake up and play thier game if Q lets them. No more slowing down Kaner with the old guys. Play Regin more.
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  17. 4th and 26

    4th and 26 George Halas Staff Member

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    There were a lot of no calls which I don't have a problem with if it goes both ways.
  18. 4th and 26

    4th and 26 George Halas Staff Member

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    Never ever and I mean never ever underestimate the Hawks, This team is built to win and they can play the worst game and still manage to win. Way too many times have I seen the Hawks dominate a game and still lose, almost every time we play Nashville they dumb the game down and we lose. GO HAWKS.
  19. shark86x

    shark86x Pro-Bowler SuperFan

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    Key phrase: if it goes both ways.

    It clearly doesn't. Bollig gets suspended two games for a questionable hit. Okay, fine I'll go along with it if when Cooke elbowed a guy in the head he gets called and suspended. Or for when he stuck his knee out for a trip and there was no call. Both should have been suspendable calls. or we get called for a ticky tacky hold but when Keith gets interefered with and tripped at center ice and they get a goal because of it it's called smart physical hockey.

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