Blackhawks vs Wild Playoff Preview: The Rookies

Blackhawks v Wild

The Blackhawks, winners of the Presidents’ Trophy, will take on a team from Minnesota in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Hawks lost to the North Stars in 1991, the last time they claimed the top record in the NHL.

A lot has happened since 1991, however.

The North Stars moved to Dallas. The Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup. And a couple of this year’s top Calder Trophy candidates, Brandon Saad and Jonas Brodin, were born.

Here’s a look ahead at two young players that will impact the series.

The top-line left wing many Hawks fans were so desperate for GM Stan Bowman to go get on the free agent market happened to be playing in Saginaw last year, and has made an enormous impact this season. Saad, skating on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, has emerged as a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate.

Saad finished the regular season tied for fifth among all rookies with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists), a rookie-best plus-17 rating, and two game-winning goals. After a slow start, he finished the season strong, posting 15 points in March and another eight in April.

But Saad isn’t the only player in this series that should receive consideration for the Calder.

The Wild’s Brodin has been one of the really exciting players for Minnesota all year. He was the tenth overall pick in the 2011 Draft, and won’t turn 20 until mid-July, but he still led all rookies in average ice time per game by almost two full minutes (23:12).

Brodin finished the season second on the Wild behind only Ryan Suter with 60 blocked shots, and four of his nine assists have come in April. Brodin and Suter were not only the top even-strength pair for Minnesota, but Brodin stayed with Suter on the top penalty killing unit for the Wild (as a team, Minnesota ranked 18th in the NHL on PK this season though).

As these two teams look forward to being division rivals starting this fall, Saad and Brodin are two young players developing into stars. They’ll see a lot of each other in the future, and this will be the first big stage for each. How will they respond to the bright lights of playoff hockey? We’ll see.

7 thoughts on “Blackhawks vs Wild Playoff Preview: The Rookies

  • April 28, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Into the crucible of playoffs they go. Where the pressure is heightened and every mistake magnified. Some rise to meet the challenge and others shrink before it. Saad and Brodin have not yet been tested, but they will be.

    I love the playoffs. Ain’t life grand!

  • April 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    1) need to respect Minnesota
    2)need to skate during the powerplay rather than stand still
    3)need to tighten defense
    4) try not to be cute with the puck
    5) Hawks should take them in five but work cut out for us
    6) Need to be more physical and check Minnesota players like Vancouver did the other day .

    Norman Red Baron

  • April 28, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Speaking of rookies, thought the game last night had some interesting points. One is the Icehogs are taught and follow the system the Hawks currently use. Second, the Hawks future in these guys is solid if not spectacular. Third, Ben Smith is ready now. He would be my first call up should a forward go down. His hockey IQ seems solid and he is up to speed.

    Can’t wait for game 1.

  • April 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

    The Blackhawks added Olsen & Dahlbeck to the “Black Aces” on Sunday.

  • April 28, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Agree mostly with Norman’s comments. They’re already the lowest GA/G in NHL so their D is pretty darn tight. I think they’ve been pretty solid with the puck in the second half of the season—they’ve really reduced the neutral zone turn overs that lead to odd man rushes.

    PP does not matter. PK does.

  • April 28, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    You could see all night versus the Blues…Smith, Hayes, Morin, Pirri and Stanton all appear to be ready, and ahead of the other “Aces”…I thought LaLonde accorded himself quite well under the circumstances.

    Ben Smith is going to be a keeper.

    As to the article, Saad got some time last year in the playoffs against PHO, so he has a taste. I think he will shine playing a more streamlined, disciplined system during the playoffs.

  • April 30, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    McKay’s last line says it all, and I couldn’t agree more. Although, look at Boston’s special teams in 2011.

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