Blackhawks

Blackhawks-Wild: Who has the edge?

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Blackhawks-Wild: Who has the edge?

It’s just about time. Yes, folks, we’ve had a prolonged wait between first and second rounds but finally — finally! — the Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild will begin Round 2 on Friday night at the United Center.

So that means it is who-has-the-edge story time. As stated in the past, you won’t find a series prediction here. Instead, we break down categories and see who has the edge, at least entering the series.

So while you wait these last few hours before puck drop, let’s look at some edges.

Forwards

Zach Parise had a great first round vs. the Blues, leading the Wild with seven points. Nino Niederreiter was crucial, too, scoring three first-round goals. All in all, the Wild got solid contributions from several forwards. The same goes for the Blackhawks, whose best players were just that against the Predators. Jonathan Toews leads all Blackhawks with eight points, including three goals. Patrick Sharp, who had a forgettable regular season, also had three goals. Patrick Kane had seven points, including two goals, after being sidelined seven weeks. This category would likely be even, but we’re throwing in the Bryan Bickell-against-the-Wild factor. EDGE: Blackhawks.

[MORE: Teravainen expected to return to Blackhawks lineup vs. Wild]

Defensemen

Each team has its Clydesdales: Duncan Keith logged an average of 32 minutes a game in Round 1 (double- and triple-overtime games certainly added to that ice time) while Ryan Suter played just over 26 minutes a game (no overtimes in the Wild’s series vs. St. Louis). Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon had good first rounds: each had three points and finished with plus-5 and plus-3 ratings, respectively. The Blackhawks gave up a lot vs. the Predators, be it shots and goals, and even though it’s a team-defense issue the defensemen bear some brunt in that. On the other side, though, they came up just as big: Keith had the winning goals in Games 1 and 6 and Brent Seabrook had it in Game 4. EDGE: Blackhawks

Goaltenders

Devan Dubnyk is among the Vezina Trophy finalists for a reason. The Wild turned their season around in mid-January, when it acquired Dubnyk, and he’s a big reason for that resurgence. Does he remain tough to beat or do the Blackhawks expose a chink in his armor? Corey Crawford will start the second round back in the Blackhawks’ net, but which Crawford will we see: end-of-regular-season Crawford or start-of-postseason Crawford? We’ll find out soon enough but right now the Wild, after two postseasons of uncertainty atthis position, is steadier there to start this round. EDGE: Wild.

Power play

The Wild had a solid power play in the first round, and it’s currently tops among postseason teams (33.3 percent). It was also more potent on the road (three power-play goals on seven chances) than at home (one goal on five opportunities). The Blackhawks started off well on it in Game 1 (two power-play goals) and came through again in Game 6 (Toews’ goal). It didn’t score in Games 2-5 but had chances and, with Kane’s return, was better with possession time. The edge in this one is minimal, but… EDGE: Wild.

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Penalty kill

This was the Blackhawks’ strength in previous seasons but the Predators picked it apart in the first round, scoring six power-play goals. It also didn’t help that the Blackhawks couldn’t stay out of the box; they were shorthanded 22 times vs. Nashville. Minnesota was 9-for-11 on its penalty kill. The Blackhawks frustrated the Wild with their kill the past two postseasons but that was then. They could tighten it up in the second round but right now, it’s a question mark. EDGE: Wild.

Intangible

In this round, it’s adversity. Both teams have handled it beautifully. The Wild got past their December/early January malaise to become a formidable postseason squad. Obviously they can handle pressure. The Blackhawks have dealt with this plenty themselves, be it that series against Detroit two springs ago or coming back from two sizeable deficits to win Games 1 and 6 against the Predators in the first round. Since the Blackhawks have been here, done this longer, and with pretty much the same group… EDGE: Blackhawks.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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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?

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USA TODAY

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: