Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 1 win over Wild


Blackhawks: Konroyd's keys to a Game 1 win over Wild

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.

[MORE: Blackhawks-Wild: Who has the edge?]

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.

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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.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: