We know the opponent, but don’t yet know the schedule for the second round playoff series for the Blackhawks. With St. Louis eliminated, the Hawks will have home ice against the Minnesota Wild, against whom the Hawks had an uneven regular season series.
Unlike Nashville, the Hawks and Wild last game came only a couple short weeks ago in Chicago’s home finale. Jason Zucker returned from his clavicle injury to make in impact on that game, but Patrick Kane was still out of the Blackhawks lineup as the Wild held off the Hawks in a close game.
In the regular season:
- Dec. 16 in Chicago – Blackhawks win 5-3
- Jan. 8 in Minnesota – Blackhawks win 4-2
- Jan. 11 in Chicago – Blackhawks win 4-1
- Feb. 3 in Minnesota – Wild win 3-0
- April 7 in Chicago – Wild win 2-1
The Blackhawks statistical leaders in those four games:
- Patrick Kane – 4 games, 2 goals, 6 assists, +4
- Jonathan Toews – 5 games, 1 goal, 5 assists, 59.6% fo
- Brad Richards – 5 games, 1 goal, 4 assists
- Bryan Bickell – 5 games, 4 goals, 1 assists, +4
Chicago dominated Minnesota at the dot, led by Toews. Antoine Vermette won 60 percent of his faceoffs (one game with Chicago, three with Arizona) and Marcus Kruger won 59.2 percent of his faceoffs in five games against the Wild this season. Vermette had two goals and one assist against the Wild while skating with the Coyotes.
For Minnesota, only two players – Zucker (three) and Mikeal Granlund (two) – scored more than one goal in the five games. Granlund won 54.8 percent of his faceoffs against the Hawks this season; he appeared in only three of the five games.
Zach Parise posted seven points in the first round against St. Louis, which tied for third in the NHL in the first round; Toews and Kevin Shattenkirk led the league with eight. Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane also had seven points, while Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp had five points each.
Between the pipes may be the position where the Wild hold the most significant advantage heading into the series. Appearing in the postseason for the first time in his career, Devan Dubnyk posted a .913 save percentage with one shutout against the Blues in the first round; Chicago, meanwhile, had the opportunity to pull both of their goals during their series against the Preds and finished back where they began with Crawford in net.
The Hawks were one of the many teams that came up short against the exceptional play of Dubnyk down the stretch. After joining the Wild, Dubnyk allowed only one goal against 57 shots and won both of his starts against the Blackhawks; the second of those wins was against a Kane-less Blackhawks team, however.
Corey Crawford will start the series between the pipes for Chicago, and he was solid with a .948 save percentage against Minnesota this season. Antti Raanta appeared on Dec. 16, getting a win in spite of three goals allowed against 29 shots; Toews, Kane and Brent Seabrook each had three points that night.
On special teams, the Hawks were fantastic on penalty kill duty against the Wild the season, successfully killing 13 of 14 Minnesota advantages in the five games. In the first round against Nashville, however, the Blackhawks allowed a power play goal in five of the six games. The Hawks power play converted only twice in 11 chances against Minnesota during the regular season and continued the underwhelming trend in the opening round.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6