How Blackhawks, Wild stack up compared to previous years


How Blackhawks, Wild stack up compared to previous years

The Blackhawks and Wild will clash in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive season, and both teams will quickly find out this year's matchup won't be like the previous two.

In 2013, Chicago rolled past an inexperienced Minnesota team in five first-round games. Last season, it took six games in the second round before the Blackhawks eventually eliminated the Wild, who lacked the depth to dethrone the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

"We really didn't have much of a chance against them a couple years ago, to be honest," Zach Parise said.

[MORE: Bovada: Where Blackhawks rank among Stanley Cup favorites]

They do now.

Experienced and deep, the Wild don't just feel they'll be able to keep up with the Blackhawks. They're confident they can get past them.

Let's take a look at how the two teams stack up in 2015 compared to 2013 and 2014.

2013 GD GF/G GA/G 5-on-5 PP PK SF/G SA/G
Hawks (36-7-5, 77 points) 1st (+53) 3rd (3.10) 1st (2.02) 1st (1.52) 19th (16.7%) 3rd (87.2%) 5th (31.1) 4th (26.2)
Wild (26-19-3, 55 points) 18th (-5) 22nd (2.46) 15th (2.60) 24th (0.88) 16th (17.9%) 18th (80.7%) 17th (28.8) 6th (27.1)

*Chicago won series 4-1 in first round

2014 GD GF/G GA/G 5-on-5 PP PK SF/G SA/G
Hawks (46-21-15, 107 points) 5th (+47) 2nd (3.18) 12th (2.58) 4th (1.27)  10th (19.5%) 19th (81.4%) 3rd (33.1) 4th (27.2)
Wild (43-27-12, 98 points) 15th (+1) 24th (2.43) 7th (2.42) 8th (1.15)  16th (17.9%) 27th (78.8%) 29th (26.6) 5th (27.7)

*Chicago won series 4-2 in second round

 2015  GD  GF/G  GA/G  5-on-5  PP  PK SF/G   SA/G
 Hawks (48-28-6, 102 points)  4th (+40)  17th (2.68)  2nd (2.27)  4th (1.19)   20th (17.6%)  10th (83.4%)  1st (33.9)  22nd (30.2)
 Wild (46-28-8, 100 points)  7th (+30)  12th (2.77)  6th (2.42)  9th (1.14)   27th (15.8%)  1st (86.3%)  12th (30.8)  4th (27.6)

*Series begins Friday, May 1 at 8:30 p.m. at the United Center

The case for Chicago

The Blackhawks finished the campaign as one of the best puck-possession teams, ranking inside the top-5 in even strength play and first in shots on goal. Combine that with a team that knows what it takes to win in April-June, and Chicago remains the favorite to not only knock off the Wild, but come out of the West.

The case against Chicago

While the Blackhawks' shots on goal have increased every year since 2013, so has their shots allowed. And it did so dramatically from 2014 to 2015, which resulted in a penalty kill that descended to 10th by season's end after ranking first for the majority of the year. It got them into trouble in their first-round matchup against Nashville, which outshot Chicago by an average of 4 per game, but the Blackhawks' experience at closing games prevailed. It may not against Minnesota.

The case for Minnesota

The statistic that jumps out is the Wild's significant improvement on defense since 2013, particularly the penalty kill. They've always hovered near the top of the league in least amount of goals allowed and shots allowed under Mike Yeo, but the in-season acquisition of Devan Dubnyk in addition to a shored up blue line may cause headaches for the Blackhawks.

The case against Minnesota

The other part of the Wild's special teams is their biggest concern. After sitting in the middle of the pack (16th) in 2013 and 2014, their power play slipped near the bottom (27th) in 2015. Minnesota had success in its first-round series against St. Louis, going 4-for-12 on the man advantage, but can they get by Chicago if it dries up?

'Big opportunity for us': Blackhawks know importance of what's at stake this weekend

'Big opportunity for us': Blackhawks know importance of what's at stake this weekend

Every game is crucial at this time of year. But there's no downplaying the importance of this weekend for the Blackhawks.

It starts Friday night at the United Center, where the Blackhawks will take on the Colorado Avalanche. And the winner will move into the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. No biggie.

"Absolutely," Jonathan Toews said on whether there's extra motivation. "I think we knew earlier in the season that games are important start to finish throughout the regular season because you're going to find yourself in a tight spot at some point. And here we are with 20 games or so left and we're going head-to-head with division teams that are basically in the same place trying to make the playoffs. So we know it's definitely a big one."

It's even more important for the Blackhawks because the Avalanche have a game in hand. So if the Blackhawks are on the losing end of a potential four-point swing, it changes the landscape in a fairly significant way and they're back to being a couple games back.

"Oh yeah, they’re big,' coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s fun. Been working for a couple of months here to be in games like this. Going to enjoy it, enjoy the battle, should be a fun atmosphere."

After Friday, the Blackhawks have to get right back to work and prepare for the Dallas Stars on Sunday because there's added meaning in that game, too.

The Stars currently own the first spot in the West, and the Blackhawks could pull within two points of them by Sunday — although the Stars have two games in hand, and host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. That's a pair of consecutive four-point games on the line, which could help propel the Blackhawks above the playoff line.

"Every game is big," Patrick Kane said. "When you get a chance to play a team that you're chasing and make sure they're not putting up anything as far as points-wise in the standings, that's a big opportunity for us. We know how big these games are this weekend but I think that's just going to be the way it is down the stretch. Pretty much every game is going to be huge for us. Be nice to have a big weekend here and see where we're at."

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Sports Talk Live Podcast: Blackhawks are now tied for the final playoff spot in the West


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Blackhawks are now tied for the final playoff spot in the West

Mark Carman and Patrick Finley join Kap on the panel.

0:00- Duke and the worst teams in the NBA breathe a big sigh of relief after Zion Williamson suffers just a Grade 1 knee sprain. After dodging this bullet, should Zion shut it down and prepare for the draft?

7:00- After seeing what happened to Zion, there have been more calls for the NCAA to pay players more than just tuition. Will it ever happen?

10:00- The Blackhawks are now tied for the final playoff spot in the West. Does Stan Bowman need to make a big trade before Monday's deadline?

12:30- Manny Machado is a San Diego Padres. Patrick Finley is huge Padres fan. He gives his reaction to the big free agent signing.

16:00- WGCI's Leon Rogers joins the guys on the panel to talk about Zion's injury, the Bears offseason plans. They also discuss the controversial finish in the Georgia-Mississippi State game when a stuffed animal decided the outcome.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Sports Talk Live Podcast