parise

It’s always fun when preparing for a Playoff matchup, to get the thoughts and opinions of the other side. And then to completely ignore them anyway and go on with our own fevered imaginings of glory.

To this end I asked a few questions of Ger Devine, one of the writers at Minnesota Wild blog Gone Puck Wild . I should add that (for the observant among you) this gentleman is also my wee brother. Yes, there’s a family-feud a-brewing in Clan Devine. Anyway, Ger seems to be taking his meds these days and strung together a great article on the Hawks the other day. To the questions:

 

CtA: On paper this looks like a mismatch and people are quickly writing off the Wild’s chances. If the Wild are going to cause a sensational upset in this series, where is it going to come from?
GPW: The only way the Wild have a chance in this series is if they catch the Blackhawks napping in Game 1 and find a way to pull off a smash-and-grab win at the UC. The Hawks are probably feeling very confident at the moment after a pretty stress-free regular season, but a loss at home to a lesser team might shake their foundations and have them thinking back to that nightmare series against the Coyotes. Getting Pominville (“Doodle”) back healthy would greatly increase the Wild’s chances of accomplishing this.
CtA: Mike Yeo is going to have a headache in terms of line-matching: does he put Koivu and Parise out against the Toews line or stick with Brodziak & Clutterbuck and hope for the best?

GPW: The match-ups are gonna be interesting. If Pominville is healthy then the lines will be something like this:
Parise-Koivu-Coyle
Zucker-Cullen-Setoguchi
Bouchard-Brodziak-Pominville
Rupp-Mitchell-Clutterbuck
That 3rd line was very impressive before Pominville’s injury, so maybe Yeo could try and shut down the Hawks top line by using the extremely similar Wild top line and hope to get some scoring from the 2nd or 3rd by finding a good match-up. That speedy 2nd line vs the Handzus/Bickell line would be nice.
Without Konopka, I’m quite happy for that 4th line to see decent minutes. They’ve got good energy and are fairly sound defensively.
CtA: This could be an interesting series for the rookies: we know what to expect from Saad, what are you anticipating from Brodin, Coyle & Granlund? 
GPW: I’m anticipating that Jonas Brodin (“Kidstrom”) will be his usual sound, steady self. His game is so natural and smooth, I can’t see him being fazed by the big occasion.
Charlie Coyle (“Chuck”) was the MVP of the QJMHL play-offs last year as the Sea Dogs won the President’s Trophy so at least play-offs aren’t a totally new concept to him. Obviously the NHL is massively different, but Coyle will need to be at his best as that 1st line will be carrying a huge work-load. Hopefully he can use his size effectively against that stout Hawks defensive corps.
Jason Zucker’s (“Jay-Z”) got a knack for scoring big goals in important games, so hopefully he will hit the ground running in the play-offs. His speed will be key for the Wild if they want to take the game to the Hawks.
I don’t expect we’ll be seeing Granlund (“Finnish Baby Jesus”), Dumba (“Dumbass”) or anyone else unless there’s an injury. (Though I would rather see, 18 year old, Dumba and a bag of pucks take the ice instead of Stoner (“4/20, NO!”) and Falk).
CtA: There seems to be some rumblings of discontent over in Minnesota. Having broken the bank to bring in Parise & Suter, does one-and-done represent a decent first-year return or does it put Fletcher and/or Yeo on the hotseat?
GPW: In my opinion, just making the play-offs is a good return. As the guys said on the CtA podcast last night; this team is looking to be competitive a year or two down the line by surrounding Parise and Suter with young talent. Understandably, expectations increased after the Pominville trade, but stumbling into the play-offs wasn’t all that surprising considering we lost Heatley (“All-Star”) to injury on deadline day, were forced to play a fatigued Backstrom all the time due to Josh Harding’s MS and have also lost Pominville to the dreaded “upper-body injury” down the stretch.
I don’t think Fletcher should be on the hot seat any time soon. I would give Yeo another year, but if he doesn’t have the team winning and playing well in 12 months time, then they will have to find someone else, because Fletcher is certainly providing him with enough talent to succeed.
Civil-war within the Wild fanbase has been waged all season. There’s a very annoying, vocal “Anti-Koivu” group who i’m pretty sure are cousins of the “Trade Kane for Ryan Miller” Hawks crew. A lot of people want Fletcher and Yeo to get the boot and people are just hitting the ‘panic button’ over the most trivial things. This play-off series may be too much for a lot of them.
CtA: Who, on the Hawks, do you see as the single biggest threat? And is there anyone that Wild fans are going to love to hate?
GPW: Patrick Kane scares the hell out of me. With all the attention the the Hawks top line will be getting, I could see Kane having a big series, teaming-up with that handsome devil Patrick Sharp to cause some havoc.
Targets for hatred from Wild fans will probably be Kaner, Shaw and Keith. I’ll be directing my ire at Gorilla Salad and Bollig (if they even see any ice). Hopefully this is a nice, clean series with good hockey, not illegal checks, grabbing the headlines.
CtA: Care to make a prediction?
GPW: My brain says the Hawks sweep it, but after watching Joe Flacco and a shambolic Ravens team perform miracles and win the Superbowl this year, I’m now completely delusional and believe that anything is possible. So my official prediction is the Wild win in 7 and I get very very drunk and cry.
C’mon, I’d have to be a complete Debbie Downer to predict anything but a Wild win here.
Thanks to Ger and a reminder that you can follow him on DAT TWITTER TING @GerDevine and www.gonepuckwild.com