The Chicago Blackhawks will have the home ice advantage in their best-of-seven second round NHL Western Conference playoff series against the Minnesota Wild. The Blackhawks advanced to the second round by ousting the Nashville Predators in six games while the Wild took out the St. Louis Blues in six. Chicago finished the season as the third-seeded Western Conference team with a mark of 48-28-6 for 102 points.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild NHL Playoff Betting Preview – bet365 lists Chicago as the favorites to win this series at 10/13 with Minnesota at 11/10
Chicago was the 15th ranked scoring team this year in the 30-team league at 2.68 goals per game, but they were the second best defensively with just 2.27 goals against an outing. The Blackhawks power play was also ranked 15th 17.6 per cent and their penalty-killing was eighth at 83.4 per cent. The Wild placed sixth in the West this year with a mark of 46-28-8 for 100 points. They ranked 12th in goals scored per game at 2.77 and sixth best at 2.42 goals against. The Wild’s power play struggled by ranking 27th at 15.8 per cent, but they were the top team in the league when it came to penalty killing at 86.3 per cent.
This is the third straight year these two teams have met in the playoffs with Chicago winning the previous two series. Chicago ousted the Wild in five games in 2012/13 and took them out in six games last season. The Wild will have Vezina-Trophy finalist Devan Dubnyk in net this time around and that could make a big difference. He shut the Hawks out on Feb. 3 and allowed just one goal against a month later, but Chicago won the season series 3-2 after winning the first three meetings.
The Blackhawks will go with Corey Crawford in the opener against Minnesota after he struggled in the opening series against Nashville and was replaced by Scott Darling. However, Darling was pulled in the sixth and deciding game and Crawford earned the win. He posted a 94.8 save percentage against Minnesota this year and will try to replicate those numbers in the postseason. Forward Jason Zucker had three goals for the Wild against Chicago this season while forward Patrick Kane led the Hawks with two goals and six assists.
Jonathan Toews leads the playoff scoring race this season with three goals and five assists while teammate Patrick Kane has two goals and five assists and Patrick Sharp has three goals and two assists. Minnesota scored 17 goals in their series against the Blues with eight different players scoring at least once. Zach Parise led the team with three goals and four assists while Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter all chipped in with at least three points.
The Wild’s season turned around in 2014/15 when Dubnyk took over the reins as the number one goalie. The team got hot and they haven’t looked back. He’ll be kept busy by Chicago’s high-powered offense and should be the key in the series. The Hawks were forced to go to a couple of long overtime games against Nashville and may have to do the same here against Minnesota to advance to the next round.