The Western Conference quarterfinal series between the No. 8 seed Minnesota Wild and top seed Chicago Blackhawks will come to St. Paul, Minnesota and Xcel Energy Center on Sunday afternoon. The Blackhawks won the first two games at home to take a 2-0 series lead, and they remain a favorite to win the Stanley Cup at this early stage of the postseason.
The Wild played well in Game 1, losing 2-1 in overtime, but Friday night’s Game 2 showed the clear separation in talent between the two teams. Chicago controlled much of the action and outshot Minnesota 48-28 in the game, including 34-13 in the first and third periods combined.
Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was injured in pre-game warmups prior to Game 1, but Josh Harding has performed solidly in his place with 78 combined saves over the first two games. Backstrom reportedly practiced with the team on Saturday, but his status for Sunday’s game is unknown and may remain a mystery until close to game time.
Minnesota has not gotten any scoring from their top line through the first two games against Chicago, and center Mikko Koivu has played particularly poorly with four total penalties and virtually no positive impact on either end of the ice. Koivu’s contributions are not always obvious, but he has to play much more assertively for the Wild to have a chance to beat the Blackhawks.
If Minnesota is able to win one game in this series, it may well be Game 3 in front of what is sure to be a spirited home crowd. A win could also serve to turn the momentum toward them and change the complexion of the series, but that is likely to be fairly fleeting as long as the Blackhawks avoid injuries to their key players.
Game 3 Score Prediction: Blackhawks 3, Wild 1
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.