After what seems like ages (and also no time at all) the Hawks start their 2nd Round tonight, at home this time, thanks to the Wild knocking out the Avs. I’ve still not really got an opinion on which matchup I’d have preferred, but let’s have a look at the hand we’ve been dealt.
This is not the Wild that were happy just to make up the numbers last year. They’re still not the most offensively gifted side out there, but what they are is well-disciplined and hard to break down. Add to this some extremely talented and dangerous players like Zach Parise & Mikael Granlund as well as some effective, if less gaudy, guys in Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederraiter and Mikko Koivu and you have a team that is not to be underestimated. They also have one of the league’s premier pairings on the blue line in Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin, plus the underrated Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella. I’m hearing lots of talk of “Sweeps”.. I don’t see it myself. I think the Hawks have too much for Minnesota (provided they bring their A-game) and the doubt over the Wild’s goaltending (as of this writing Ilya Bryzgalov is in for the injured Darcy Kuemper) may be a tipping point, as the Hawks are going to provide a lot more sustained offense than the wretched Avs.
Anyway, games between these two have been intense and frequently chippy over the last couple of years. All will be revealed later. In the meantime, I asked Hockey Wilderness writer and youngest sibling Ger Devine some questions about the series & the Wild.
Want to give us the short (ish) version of how the Wild overcame the #1 Seed in the West to get to this encounter?
Thankfully the Avs are a terrible even strength team so it wasn’t too hard. The tricky part was stopping them when they had an extra attacker or when the refs completely shit the bed such as in Game 5. In the end, the Wild just had much better depth, some actual good defencemen and dominated puck possession so they deserved to win. It still went down to the wire (that’s just the kind of season it’s been for the Avs) but Nino Niederreiter got the Wild over the line.
Who on the Wild are you looking to to make a difference against the Hawks? And are there any Wild players who give you the heebie-jeebies when you picture them matched up with Toews/Kane/Sharp/Hossa etc?
I think Ryan Suter will be a huge factor. He was pretty mediocre in the regular season, with Spurgeon and Scandella being far more impressive on the blueline, but he had a great 1st round as he completely dominated the Avs top-6 to the tune of a 60% corsi. I expect the likes of Koivu, Pominville, Coyle and Parise to get swamped by Toews and co. so it’s gonna be up to the secondary players like Granlund, Spurgeon, Niederreiter and Moulson to make things happen for the Wild.
What weaknesses can you see on the Hawks that the Wild can exploit?
I don’t think there is one. For me, the Hawks are the undisputed #1 team in the league and the only way the Wild have a chance is if Corey Crawford shits the bed or the entire Hawks forward corps get extremely snakebitten.
Where do you think this series will be won or lost?
It’s all about how the match-ups go. If Koivu’s line can deal with the Toews line and Suter and Spurgeon keep it tight on the top pairing, then the Wild have a chance to “out-depth” the Hawks. It might sound funny, but having guys like Dany Heatley, Kyle Brodziak and, potentially, Matt Cooke on the 4th line matching up against other 4th liners gives the Wild a big advantage. The issues here is that the Hawks 4th line is one of the best around (at least when it’s Bollig/Kruger/Smith anyway) so they might be able to deal with it.
Care to make a prediction? Also, just how dreamy is Patrick Sharp?
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