After the Minnesota Wild pulled off a very unlikely first-round upset of the Colorado Avalanche by scoring in overtime of Game 7 last night, they will take on the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in Round 2. The series begins at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night from the United Center. When taking a look at the two teams, they both have some interesting match-ups on defense, at the forwards and at the center positions. Minnesota’s goalie Darcy Kuemper was injured late in the third period last night, and it will be interesting to see if he’s back in time to make an impact in this series.
Defense: Minnesota virtually just outscored Colorado in winning four games last series and didn’t get huge production out of their defense. They did get big plays out of them when they needed to, especially late in the third period of Game 7, but they didn’t make any really noticeable contributions. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks’ scoring actually ran through their defense in the first round of the playoffs with the majority of their goals early on in the series coming from their point men. They’re also deeper on defense, which gives the edge here to the Blackhawks.
Offense: There’s no doubt the Hawks are deeper on offense than the Wild, even though Minnesota has gotten production from a lot of different players in the playoffs so far. If they can keep doing that while rolling four lines against the Blackhawks, they will give themselves a chance in the series. Again, though, all of the Hawks’ top four scorers are hitting their stride and are going to be really tough to stop, especially with home ice.
Goalie: The Wild might get this edge if Kuemper were healthy, but his status is up in the air. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford is starting to look like he did in the playoffs last year which will make him virtually unbeatable if he can keep that up. There’s just something about this Blackhawks team right now, starting with Crawford, that seems like it’s rolling at the right time.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 5.