Turn On The News – Previewing the Minnesota Wild Forwards

After last night’s three-way tango between the Minnesota, Scum, and Columbus left the Jackets on the outside looking in, the Blackhawks finally have an opponent locked up in the form of the Wild

In the regular season, the Hawks went 2-0-1 against Minnesota, with the shootout loss coming during the second game of the Hawks’ early season ice capades trip. Much has changed for the Wild’s forward corps even since the Hawks last faced them back on April 9th, where they were shut out.

Overall, the Wild don’t exactly set the world on fire offensively. They rank 22nd in the league with 2.46 goals per game, which is ahead of only San Jose among Western Conference post season qualifiers. As such they’re also the only playoff qualifier league-wide with a negative goal differential at -5. Part of that might be attributed to Dany Heatley’s season ending injury, but Speed Racer wasn’t exactly the Richard Thophy threat he’s been in the past prior to that with 11G and 10A in 36 games, along with a ghastly -12 (though that’s not even a team worst).

Trade Deadline acquisition Jason Pominville has missed the last two games for the Wild after taking an elbow to the chops from Dustin Brown, one which got Brown suspended. Pommer actually had 9 points in his 10 games with the Wild prior to his injury, which isn’t bad, but was an even +/-, and just barely above water with a .30 Behind The Net rating in his tenure with the Wild, fairly evenly splitting his time flanking either Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, or Kyle Brodziak and and P.M. Bouchard. There’s no word on whether Pommer will be back for Tuesday or Wednesday, so the Wild’s lines were as follows from their final game against the Avs:

Parise – Koivu – Croyle
Zucker – Cullen – Setoguchi
Clutterbuck – Brodziak – Bouchard
Rupp – Dowell – Mitchell

Much like the Hawks, the Wild’s top line features its best two-way center in Mikko Koivu, who more than likely will draw the assignment of the Jonathan Toews line, unless coach Mike Yeo decides to send out Kyle Brodziak in hopes of stopping them. Koivu was 54% at the dot this year, which while a positive, is not Toewsian. If Dave Bolland is healthy and deployed against Koivu, this could be a distinct advantage, however. Koivu and the very expensive Zach Parise played together the vast majority of the year at even strength, and are relied upon to be the Wild’s primary point producers. Koivu’s game is subtle, and could be described as Toews -lite, while Parise plays a power forward’s game despite being undersized for the role. Rookie Charlie Coyle gives the line some size at 6’3″, 222 lbs, so with Parise’s tenacious forechecking that was on full display last year, expect this line to set the tone for the Wild attack, and try to get pucks behind the Hawk defensemen and punish them physically on the end boards.

Minnesota’s second line is centered by the steady veteran presense of Matt Cullen, who readers of this blog should be familiar with after many a daydream of seeing him as a Hawks deadline pickup. Cullen is solid at the dot and is a crafty playmaker, and is far away the leader in Behind The Net rating among Wild regulars at 2.09. He’s flanked by Devin Setoguchi who has a very quick release, but finally scored his first goal in 13 games in the finale against the Avs, which proved to be the game winner. With any shoosty-type, Seto can run hot and cold, and has 14 points in 18 career games against the Hawks, though it feels like that number should be higher given the irritating nature of them. Jason Zucker is young and undersized, but the Wild will need him to find more offense if they hope at all to keep up this series.

Residing in Dave Bolland’s Dungeon for the Wild is their defacto checking center Kyle Brodziak, who starts 63.1 of his even strength shifts in the defensive zone. Brodziak does a decent job of flipping the ice by finishing about 45% of shifts in the offensive zone, and is only slightly underwater in his Corsi/60 at -1.6. But Brodziak is also a blinding -18 in just 48 games, as his 8G 4A output just simply isn’t enough to counterbalance the chances he’s yielding. This line also features the mustachioed Cal Clutterbuck, who is garaunteed to be everyone’s least favorite Wild (how stupid is that to say?) by series end. Clutts hits everything in sight and his skates only actually on the ice for about 25% of those. Be prepared for Foley and Olczyk to beat his hit stats to death, which are notoriously inflated by Minnesota’s home scorekeeper. It’s almost garaunteed that his contributions to this series will be a borderline hit and a shitty garbage overtime goal. He’s Diet Alex Burrows. That P.M. Bouchard has played 43 of 48 games this season is a victory in and of itself, and Nikolai Khabibulin is probably still pissed off about his spin-o-rama shootout goal, provided he’s sober enough to remember it.

The Wild’s fourth line has Mike Rupp, Jake Dowell, and occasionally Zenon Konopka on it, which should tell you all you need to know. Konopka can win a draw and could actually be a useful player if he ever shut up and focused, but it’s questionable whether he’ll even get out of street clothes this series.

Even if Pomminville is able to go early on in this series, the Wild still have a lot of trouble generating offense, as there’s just not nearly enough creativity or finish in the group. Regardless of any of the matchups Mike Yeo tries to get, whatever Quenneville tosses out to counter will have the Wild overmatched. Koivu and Parise may will themselves into a few good chances a game, but there just simply isn’t a lot of depth here.

  • GerDevine

    Unfortunately Konopka will be playing in this series. Dowell has only dressed for 1 game this year and will probably be back with the Aeros.

  • AMR

    Game 1 tuesday

    • Z-man19

      I believe the bulls occupy the UC on Thursday so game 2 not til Friday?

      • AMR

        That’s the rumor. Though it depends if the Bulls need that extra game.

      • I hope its Friday. I got tickets to game two. I work Thursday so that could be an issue if the Bulls win in Brooklyn tomorrow.

        • The Doctor

          Friday it is. Official schedule is on the NHL’s page.

      • Sparky_The_Barbarian

        Not if the Bulls win Monday night,

  • Skags

    Hawks in 5

    • The Doctor

      That’s my guess as well. I think of all the possible match-ups we could have had this one is probably the easiest for us.

  • SAMCRO Outlaw

    So if Bolland is ready for game 1 does he slide back in between Kane & Sharp where he was decidedly out of place, or does Handzus stay on the 2nd line and Bolland drops to the 3rd line and then make a 4th line of Shaw – Kruger – Frolik?

    • mad-hatter

      Before Friday’s game, Q implicated that he might put Bolly back on the third line when he returns and leaving Zus in between the Patricks. Whether he’ll actually do so is another matter. Bolland’s not looking likely for Tuesday though.

  • ahnfire

    Jake Dowell is on the Wild?

    Man, I had mostly forgotten that he existed :X

    • girlphoenix

      i think he’s mostly on the aeros now

      • bizarrohairhelmet

        Didn’t he used to play….in the NHL….for us?

        • girlphoenix

          hahaha the 2C arguments of the past

          • ahnfire


          • He would!*

            *Better than Koputzky

  • Sparky_The_Barbarian

    In other words, playoff focus, play our game of short crisp passes and puck possession, take care of the puck in the neutral zone, stay out of the box, and all is well.

    • bizarrohairhelmet

      Seems like a lot to remember. I’ll just be happy if we score more points than them in each of 4 games.

  • Joe Banks

    DVR warning: Sox game on Tuesday, so Hawks game COULD wind up on CSN+.
    Time will tell?

    • Black JEM

      It will also be on NBC SPorts Network – so there will be an HD feed.

      • RLWiener

        CSN+ is HD, CSN+2 is the non HD one.

    • MySpoonIsTooBig

      I thought that Tracy Myers tweeted yesterday that only games 5-7 (if played) would be on CSN? I could easily be wrong as I’m not paying particularly close attention to the local broadcast schedules since I live in DC and am simply thankful that all playoff games are broadcast nationally now 🙂

  • IncognitoFlavius

    Clusterfuck pounding on Leddy is a haunting vision, Koivu and Parise are scary good, Cullen’s name is on the Cup, and Konopka is a physical danger to everyone if not an outright sociopath….unless and until this series goes 3-1 Hawks, I’m a gonna be worry’d ’bout these forwards

    • GerDevine

      Konopka is terrible. He can’t fight, he doesn’t impose physically, he can’t play offence or defence and he takes dumb penalties. All he can do is yap.

      • Flavius

        Wise words, wayward wanderer from the Great White North….somewhat less worry’d, still very concerned, very concerned

      • Good at faceoffs?

        • GerDevine

          Very good at face-offs…but he’s never gonna be on the ice in a key face-off situation, so it’s a pretty redundant skill.

  • Neo

    Thanks for the link Matt, I understand something better. You guys use the term “behind the net rating.” Wasn’t really sure where that came from. You guys still use the old BtN site. Here is the old and new link for Min:



    Just an FYI, the new name on the new site for that stat is “+/- Relative.” Which is where the confusion comes from.

    • That’s probably a better, more universally descriptive way of naming it rather than trying to call it their own proprietary stat.

    • Thanks … I was just about to post this question, as I wasn’t exactly sure what was being measured. Perfect.

  • justforkicks

    Got the jitters, tomorrow can’t come soon enough. Excited for the reemergence of Bolly.

    • Sparky_The_Barbarian

      Indeed, time to put all the regular season accolades behind us. We are starting from scratch, just like the teams with the 8 seeds. I want to see the Hawks go out there with the attitude that they have something to prove.

  • MattC86

    God, going on vacation for a week to miss the last meaningless week of the regular season and getting back right in time for playoffs was the way to freaking go. Bolland jersey is ready for a return of The Rat.

    • Bolly didn’t practice today, injured.

      Your guess is as good as mine as to severity.

      • lizmcneill

        ‘Progressing’, ‘day to day’ – I think any of us could do Q’s injury press statements by now.

  • Paul the Fossil

    Looks like I drew one of the straws for Game 1 among our little group that shares a pair of season tix. Section 321 row 2. Feeling good about the chances for this series, the Wild don’t impress me that much overall.

    • Sparky_The_Barbarian

      It’s possibly the best match up for the Hawks. They don’t have the skating prowess of Det or LA or ANA, and they aren’t as physical as The Blues or BJ’s or Canucks.

    • What seats? I’ve been in 321 Row 2 13 and 14 for the last 5 seasons.

      • Paul the Fossil

        No shit! The wife (who is a regular reader and occasional poster here as “The Fossil’s Wife”) and I will be in seats 5 and 6. Want to grab a beer after the 1st? We usually meet people at the full bar that’s a couple of sections clockwise.

        • It’s going to be a tight time window for me getting into the building on time from work, especially with the heightened security measures. I appreciate the offer, though. Either way, see you there tomorrow.

  • Paul the Fossil

    One last glance at the 48-game individual leader board before the real season begins:

    Kane and Toews ended up tied for 4th in the league in goals with 23.

    Kane tied for 10th in the league with 32 assists, and was alone in 4th leaguewide with 55 points. Tazer tied for 9th in points with 48.

    Hossa tied for the league lead in gamewinning goals with 6. (14 different Hawks registered a GWG.)

    Toews tied for the league lead in plus-minus with plus-28. Hossa and Roszival tied for 10th with plus-20; Saad got to plus-17; Keith, Leddy and Stalberg each plus-16; Hammer plus-15; Oduya plus-14; Bickell and Seabs each plus-13. So the Hawks had 11 of the league’s top 45 skaters in plus-minus.

    Emery and Crawford finished in a virtual three-way tie with Tukka Rask with a 1.94 goals-against average. They also both finished in the top ten in save percentage, .926 for Crawford and .922 for Emery.

    • ‘hawks58

      More relevant are their rankings in the West (since West teams only played against the Western Conference):

      Kane and Toews finished tied for 2nd in goals; Kane finished 7th in assists; Kane led the West in scoring (by 5 points!); Toews finished 1st in +/-, a whopping +7 higher than the next competitor; Crawford and Emery led the West in GAA; Crawford was 3rd in Sv%

  • Lobster

    Just an FYI, it’s coyle, not croyle.

  • Seriously…

    I would be able to take this article a little more seriously if there weren’t multiple spelling/grammatical errors. Oh, and by the way who is Charlie Croyle? It’s C-o-y-l-e.

    • Hawkeytalk

      I suspect the writers of this blog expected a different opponent, but since the Wild shit the bed by losing to EDM….

  • Daniel Tallungan

    Hello all. This is my first post, and I hope I am not misusing this site. I have been a long time reader and seeing as I have read posts about traveling fans and get togethers at Road Watchers, I thought I’d take a chance. This coming weekend, I (along with a bunch of friends) will be heading south for the Kentucky Derby/bachelor party and we are all huge Blackhawks fans. Seeing as there is a plethora of individuals who read this site and the extent of the outreach of the Blackhawk nation across the continent is vast, I figured I would give this a shot. We want to watch the game Friday night and will be in Louisville on 4th Street. I want to find a sports bar that has the game and one preferably with a Chicago base if possible. Does anyone have any suggestions?