Chicago Blackhawks’ Depth Must Show Up Against Minnesota Wild
The Chicago Blackhawks were able to topple the St. Louis Blues in the first round largely on the strength of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford. In the upcoming series against the Minnesota Wild, however, Chicago will need their depth to start contributing if the Blackhawks are to move on to the Western Conference Finals.
Andrew Shaw was the only member of Chicago’s bottom-six to make a genuinely noticeable impact during the series against the Blues, collecting four points in the six games. Still, he took a number of senseless and unnecessary penalties that could have put the Blackhawks in a terrible position if St. Louis’ power play had not struggled so badly. Shaw’s offensive production is nice, but he will need to clean up his act against the Wild.
Brandon Saad and Kris Versteeg have been playing some of their worst hockey of the season over the past month, especially Saad. Both players were disappointing against the Blues, and Joel Quenneville ultimately scratched Versteeg in the series clincher. Saad had his best game of the playoffs that afternoon, but that isn’t saying much; his being on the third line means less difficult matchups, and Saad has little excuse for the fact that he has yet to take advantage of them.
Michal Handzus and Marcus Kruger will continue to make their contributions on the penalty kill. As for Brandon Bollig, it is rather unclear why he is still in the lineup. After a regular season in which Quenneville was happy to give him regular ice time, Bollig has been glued to the bench in the playoffs.
For the Blackhawks to beat an underrated Wild team, the trio of Shaw, Saad and Versteeg in particular will need to be much better.