NHL: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks

Pour Me Another – Round 2 vs. Minnesota Preview: Lining It All Up

Time to clean up the rest of this preview, with a brief glance at the special teams and then try and guess how it’s all going to go.

On the power play, the Wild have for years been terrible. That changed in the first round, and you can mostly pin that on the presence of Matt Dumba. The Wild went 4-for-12 in the series against St. Louis, which isn’t a lot of chances in a six-game series but certainly is enough power play goals. Dumba had one, and set up one or two more with the cannon he has from the point. It gives them a second point-man with a big shot, with the other being Jason Pominville, who they don’t always use on the point. With Neiderreiter, Vanek, Parise, and Koivu all bodies that can make plays around the net, and the problems the Hawks had with the Predators down low on the power play, this could become an issue.

The Wild PK could be another problem. Even though the Hawks’ PP was able to come up with a couple big goals in Game 1 and 6, no one around here is ever going to be convinced that it will be a constant threat. The Wild were able to hold the Blues to two power play goals over six games, in 11 chances.

The main fear of the Wild PK is the amount of talented, speedy forwards that can attack the Hawks at the points and expose this umbrella they went to at the end of the season that gave up a raft of shorthanded chances. Parise, Coyle, Koivu, Brodziak, Fontaine, and Granlund all kill penalties for the Wild and can apply high pressure to a Hawks’ power play that doesn’t really handle high pressure well, especially on the points. It might leave open those give-and-go’s that Keith will sometimes start where he dishes to Kane on the wall, gets behind the pressuring forward and is wide open in the middle of the ice. Once again, and as they did a lot to the Preds to be fair, stationing Toews in the high slot to keep the forwards on a leash lest they give him too much space, will be of importance.

What Does It All Mean?

It’s hard to get a true handle on this series, because where we knew exactly what Peter Laviolette would do as he only knows one way, Mike Yeo is no such easy study. Just one year ago, Mike Yeo changed plans from period to period and it took just about six games for the Hawks to catch up. One period they would trap, and then the very next one they were sending two forwards in on the forecheck with a third ready to pounce, and then back again. It’s actually rare that you have a team as flexible as that and a coach willing to use it, but the Wild have both.

It’s also hard to glean much from the regular season meetings. The three Hawks wins came when the Wild were having goalie problems. The first Wild win was on the Ice Show trip and the Hawks clearly didn’t give much of a fuck before turning it on to end that trip against the Jets and Blues. The last meeting was the last home game of the season, and the Hawks didn’t have Patrick Kane and that was the night Q tried to hint that he didn’t want to finish higher than 3rd and had Rozsival and Rundblad out there in the last minute down a goal (and Versteeg too, who gave away the puck for the empty-netter in perhaps the most predictable mistake this side of Tet Offensive).

We can say relatively confidently that the Wild can’t push the pace as hot as the Predators did, because they don’t have the mobility on the back end. If the Wild were to try and sit on the Hawks’ line for as long as the Preds did, Leopold, Scandella, even Suter and Brodin would be at serious risk of getting beat back up the ice (Suter’s skating brilliance is built in its efficiency, not necessarily top end speed).

But that doesn’t mean the Wild can’t play fast, because their forwards certainly are quick. They’re not going to want to go up and down with the Hawks, but then it doesn’t feel like the Hawks want to go up and down either with only Keith being a real transition d-man at the moment (unless Oduya can find his end of season form). I think we’ll probably see Yeo bounce back and forth again from period to period, but not as violently as last year.

The plan of attack for the Wild won’t look too different from Nashville’s. They’ll try and get the Hawks to back up off their blue line to carry the puck in, though the Wild are more built to win pucks along the wall than the Preds are with Parise, Neiderreiter, Koivu, Vanek (maybe, depending on mood that day) and Stewart all good forecheckers. But because of the gap that should be between the Minnesota forwards and their defense that can’t be right up on the play all the time, if the Hawks move the puck quickly they won’t come up against as tight of a pinch at their line as they did in the 1st round. That means getting through the neutral zone and hitting the Wild line with speed, and that’s generally when good things happen.

It’s impossible to predict what Devan Dubnyk or Corey Crawford will do. Dubnyk got something of a sweetheart assignment in his first playoff experience, because we all know the Blues are always waiting for a chance to freeze and then puke all over themselves, which they did. The Hawks don’t come with that, and as currently constructed will roll four lines of threats. My guess is that neither goalie will either win or lose this series.

At the end of it, the Wild’s possession numbers are what rings the loudest. It is almost impossible to fathom how the Wild can cede 53-55% of the shot attempts over seven games to the Hawks and come out ahead unless Dubnyk stands on his head, and we can’t say that will happen for sure. And whatever his first round hiccup may have been, Crow has the much more accomplished playoff record and is just as likely to stone the Wild as Dubs is the Hawks. Whereas the Blues only had three or four threats even with all that possession, the Hawks have Hossa, Saad, Toews, Kane, Sharp, Bickell, Shaw, Kruger, all of whom have had playoff binges for a handful of games at some point, and that’s not even including Richards and Vermette. I just don’t see the Wild holding up to all that on the back foot as much as they were in the first round and in reality how much they’ve been for pretty much the 2nd half of the season.

It looks like last year’s series to me, five home wins before the Hawks scratch out a road win in Game 6.

  • Dan Treadwell

    The Wild to me have the feel of the 2012 LA Kings, only better offensively than people give them credit for. Pains me to say it, but Wild in 6. Just too many holes on the blue line for Hawks, can’t trust Q will stick with his lines not only from game to game but shift to shift, and I’m not sure how Crawford is going to respond after the first bad goal or two he allows.

    • Bob Lanz

      Oh Dan I love when “fans” refuse to keep the faith of a team that has deserved the benefit of the doubt, even the genius that is Q deserves a little positive consideration. Go Hawks and heres to Teuvo scoring a bunch in a series victory for the men of four feathers

      • Dan Treadwell

        No offense, Bob, but that’s really dumb logic. I had faith in game 7 last year against the Kings. Games/series aren’t decided by how much faith their fan base has, and I’m not going to pick the Hawks to win all the time “just because”. Will I be shocked if the Hawks won? Of course not. Can they win? Absolutely. Right now and for the last three and a half Minnesota has not only played better hockey than the Hawks, but better than anyone save possibly the Rangers in the entire league. I want them to win just as much if not more than the next fan, however, if I were forced to bet on this series my money would have to go on the Wild.

    • TitanTransistor

      Can’t predict this series. Two teams are dead even. Could see Minne winning just as easily as I can see the Hawks winning.

      • Dan Treadwell

        This series could very well be a sweep for either team with every game a hotly contested double overtime thriller.

      • Jim

        I don’t see Minny winning this one at all. They don’t have the superstars to match the Hawks. And they don’t even match up with their depth. And it can be argued that Crawford is better than Dubnyk.

        My worry is that Yeo is skating Matt Cooke, and he is going to pull a Raffe Torres on somebody important.

        • BrandonPirri

          He tried to kill Oduya last year in game 6.

          • Jim

            Here is the video clip of that hit, a boarding call.


            Matt Cook is a POS, and some part of me says Yeo is putting him out here for the purpose of recklessness, because Cook has been scratched lately. If that’s the case, there is always Carcillo waiting in the pressbox.

          • I would imagine dressing Cooke and letting him run around like a wild man almost teases Q into giving Carcillo a game to “even” it up. Thus taking a skill player out of the lineup and weakening the Hawks

    • Jim

      The Wild don’t have superstars to match Doughty and Kopitar. And not sure Dubnyk is 2012 Quick.

      Sam said:

      “Whereas the Blues only had three or four threats even with all that possession, the Hawks have Hossa, Saad, Toews, Kane, Sharp, Bickell, Shaw, Kruger, all of whom have had playoff binges for a handful of games at some point, and that’s not even including Richards and Vermette.”

      He did not mention Teravainen, who is skilled. And DeJardines can throw the puck at the net.

      Every single skater in the Hawk lineup is a threat, there are no easy outs. Our weakness is Rosival and Kimonen, but you can play the other 4 guys heavy minutes to cover. Just like Suter will play 30 minutes a game.

      • ZigZags82

        Yeah, no one matches the Hawks depth or possession game. Our depth and best players are better than everyone else’s depth and best players. Then especially watch out when Rozi actually has a decent game (Games 3-4, Game 6 of past series) and we have 5 viable good dmen (works out very well) Wild are good, probably 2nd best team in West, but this is just a case where the Hawks are too experienced (and now rested) as well as talented to not prevail as the superior team. That being said it will
        Still be tough being almost the de facto West Final, but as Sam said,

        Hawks in 6.

        It’s that time of year. Train keeps rolling deeper and deeper.

    • meme gene okerlund

      They’re 2012 Ottawa with worse possession numbers

  • meme gene okerlund

    Awesome stuff, Sam, as always.

  • TitanTransistor


    “The fact that current Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may not be long for Chicago, especially if they lose to Minnesota in their upcoming series, added MacLean, is a sentiment that has flown under the radar.”

    …could it be? Is freedom and nirvana on the horizon?

    • To Saad be the glory

      Yeah,but if we gotta lose to get rid of his ass,I’d rather put up with his shit for 12 more wins this post season and pray they still dump him later. Funny thing is,most of those meat heads on sportsnet’s website voted in the poll that Babcock was going to Edmonton or Toronto.

    • HawkIPA

      Nirvana? You mean winning another cup this year? A lot of challenges are ahead, but I like our chances.

    • Oldfarthawkfan

      Be careful what you wish for. If you don’t land Babcock you could end up with Hitchcock. And then we will end up with a team of Steve Otts and Ryan Reaves on the fourth line, and Barret Jackman as your 5th defenseman.

      • To Saad be the glory

        Stan Bowman,Dale Tallon,Mike Smith,Mike Keenan,not even Bob Pulford in his glorious prime would be dumb enough to dump Q and then get stuck picking up Hitchcock. I would think they would some how have Babcock “locked up” before they got rid of Q.

        • Dangerous game, if something like this ever did happen you run the risk of ending up with neither Q nor Babcock

          • rhodes

            Not to worry. If this were to happen, I’m available.

        • Actually, I think Mike Smith would’ve been dumb enough to do this. Dude hired Alpo Suhonen…

      • TheRealBBOX

        On the other hand Hitchcock would be a boon for local Arby’s franchises, so there may be a chance to make some money at least.

      • I Remember The Roar!

        Q is Q, and while we don’t always love the decisions, this team has won with him as the coach. They’ve won cups, they’ve come back in playoff series’, they’ve come back big in games.. these are all huge positives.

        And, please remember that Q and Babcock are opposites (from what I understand). Q is a players coach – providing rest days, etc. Babcock is a general, and I’m not sure it’s a transition made easily.

        What we’ve seen is a team of superstars be extremely successful under Coach Q – let’s keep that going.

      • HawkIPA

        We’d go in house with Dineen before Hitchcock. Still don’t like the thought of this. Much rather win and grouse about Q than lose and risk a worse alternative.

        • jordyhawk

          Words of wisdom (as Jack Torrance once said to his favorite bartender Lloyd).

      • jordyhawk

        Jackman on wing with those two would be the all-time ass clown line.

    • ZigZags82

      Careful what you wish for. Won’t happen on either end as well (Hawks not losing to Minny too)

    • Skags

      Nirvana? Fucking nirvana?? I get that his line-ups can be a little tough to understand but he’s one of the best bench coaches in the NHL and one of the winning-est coaches of all time- OF ALL TIME. He’s brought not one but TWO Stanley Cups in the past 5 years and very deep playoff runs.

      I’ve been as unhappy as the next fan with his line-up decisions. Bollig- Scott- Hendry- Versteeg with a stable of young guns at the ready. I get it. It can make everyone scratch their head- and yet the results are hard to argue with . “YEah but with all that talent…”- fuck off with that. Go talk to Boston about talent. OR Pitts. OR Colorado OR hell even Edmonton.

      Your obsession with this has crossed over into a category of meatball reserved for only true dumbasses. Q leaving= nirvana to help you feel better about his line-ups with all of your 0.0% NHL winning %? Fucking retarded.

      • Matt

        Perhaps a little sassy with the reply, but I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. Q is really good at most of the things he does and all we ever do is complain about the things he doesn’t do well just because they’re the most visible.

  • Sopel the catfish

    The only thing I don’t like about playoff hockey is all of the fucking horse racing commercials. I don’t give a shit, Eddie will give me all the horse racing info I need (and then some).

  • HawkIPA

    Hawks in 6, and when it’s said and done, Crow’s numbers will be better than Dubnyk’s, and he’ll get zero credit for it.

    • Brandon Murray

      Nothing could be truer than the last 7 words of this post.

    • I Remember The Roar!


      How come everything I read or hear goes something like, “If you take away Dubnyk’s 6 goal game, he was way better than Crawford…” ??? Crow gave up 6 in a game as well – do we get to discount that in this discussion? (Or the fact that Dubnyk gave up 6 in the first half of the game, while Crow surrendered the last three right at the end of the game when the Hawks were pressing?)

      Crawford has proven that he is a stable goalie that can really step up when needed. Just because the team left him out to dry by playing awful defense doesn’t mean it’s a knock on him.

      And didn’t we manage to win both games where we pulled goalie? (he asks, knowing the answer)… that’s something I don’t see the Wild doing if they’re put in that position.

      Another Vezina trophy nominee is about be made human…

  • Brandon Murray

    The series will not be easy. Nothing in playoff hockey ever is. Minnesota is much improved, but the ebb and flow of the game is bound to catch up with everyone. I’ll say Hawks in 7, when my original prediction was 6. Just have the feeling this one goes the length.
    Oh and I may not always agree, but his (That being Q’s) numbers and place in history among the greatest NHL coaches speaks for itself. I’ll gladly take 12 more wins, raise a 3rd Cup, and celebrate the man. Be careful what you wish for, there aren’t too many coaches worth grabbing and a couple of the names mentioned are sitting at home having either missed the playoffs or lost in round 1.

  • I’m thinking there are a lot of similarities shaping up in this years playoffs to that of 2010. Granted this is an incredible stretch and quite honestly means nothing. However…

    – Play NSH in first round (Same as 2015)
    – Campbell breaks collarbone returns against Nashville, has an impact on the series as the Hawks play improves significantly. Kane did the same.
    – Play a team in the 2nd round they had face in the previous year, in the same round no less. Wild is our Vancouver (not quite as big of dbags as the Canucks were).
    – Would face, most likely the top seed out in the west in the conference final. A California team. This year ANA that year SJ. Both hyped up as if they are the best thing since sliced bread

    All of this non-sense means Hawks in 6

  • Aaeismacgychel

    I hate to say this, but I have a feeling this may just be Minnesota’s year. Granted, I picked them to win the Cup before the season started and again before the playoffs started, but they are a really well put together team playing good confident hockey. They also were built to cause us issues and have for almost every single matchup the past two seasons extremely outplayed us only to get positively stonewalled by Crawford. This is a team that’s not going to stumble, go into a shell, or lose their cool. To win, the Hawks are going to need Crawford and also play with the lead. This is not a team we can trail early and often. I have a feeling this 3rd year might be the charm for the Wild and I’m picking Wild in 6 though I’m hoping I’m definitively wrong. Gosh I’m nervous

  • Justin

    The Hawks will become Pittsburgh if we don’t adjust our style of play. People hail Bowman but really Tallon put everything in motion that’s happening now. You cant have players 5′ 11″ 175 and fast anymore. You need 6’2″ 215 and can skate. Need to stop trying to find another P.Kane ( Teravinen, New Russian Kid) and start finding players that can adjust to todays game not 2011’s game. Were flirty with fire when our Core starts to age, as if they aren’t now.