The first two games of the series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild have each been closer than the final score indicated, but there is certainly one area where the two teams have differed enormously.
That area is the performance of their respective big-name players. Minnesota has gotten a meager two assists (no goals) from Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson thus far in the series, with that group combining for a dreadful plus/minus of -10.
The Blackhawks’ stars, well-known for their postseason excellence, have been at the opposite end of the performance spectrum. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell and Marian Hossa have combined for an absurd seven goals and eight assists in the first two games against the Wild, good for a cumulative +13.
Chicago’s stars have utterly dominated the series. Minnesota doesn’t seem to have an answer for Bickell, who is playing even better than he did in the first round against the St. Louis Blues. Hossa is generating more offense than he has in any other playoff run with the Blackhawks, and Kane has vaulted himself into the Conn Smythe Trophy discussion if the Blackhawks make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
The Wild needs their stars to show up. Parise was fantastic against the Colorado Avalanche, but has been terrible against Chicago. This continues a trend he established in last season’s series against the Blackhawks, where he was a -7 and scored just one goal in five games.
Being down 2-0 in games to the defending Stanley Cup champions is a different animal than trailing 2-0 to the inexperienced and defensively inept Avalanche. If Minnesota’s top talent continues to be invisible, this series will not have a Game 5.