1. Win the Board Battles.
Minnesota had a special run to end the regular season, going 28-9-3 and then upsetting the St. Louis Blues in the first round. This team has won 14 of their last 17 games on the road.
Yes, goaltender Devan Dubnyk was a big part of the story, but I watched a couple of the games in that St. Louis series and was amazed at how many pucks the Minnesota Wild won in the offensive zone. They have a lot of quick forwards with hockey smarts who pressure the puck in all the right areas. Make sure your exits are clean by getting back quickly, going tape to tape, and stop Minny’s fore check before it gets started.
At the other end, get pucks deep and get them back with an energized attack. You should be well rested after 6 days rest between games.
2. Get to Dubnyk.
Dubnyk saved the day for the Wild when he was traded from Arizona on Jan. 14. The team has never looked back. Dubnyk went 27-9-2 with a miniscule 1.78 goals against average to close out the regular season. He was recently nominated for the Vezina Trophy, going to the goalie judged to be best at his position.
But let’s not forget that Darcy Kuemper, another goalie in Minnesota, started the season with three shutouts in his first four starts for the Wild back in October. This is a very well-coached team that limits opponents' shots, conducive to big goalies who make the first stop. The key is getting to the second and third attempts. Rebounds were available in the St. Louis series against Dubnyk, and the Blackhawks have to make sure they are in the area to pick up any loose change.
3. Secondary Scoring a must.
You need your best players to be your best players if you want to advance in the postseason. We certainly saw that in the Hawks last series where Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith all scored goals in that last game and were also big factors in the series win against Nashville.
But any series, especially long ones, need foot soldiers to carry the load and be the heroes every once in a while. Andrew Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Marcus Kruger are capable of providing that secondary scoring the Hawks lacked in the series against Nashville. Minnesota is the kind of team that rolls all four lines, much like the Blackhawks, so getting goals from these types of players is a must.