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?

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Four takeaways: Standouts from Blackhawks first preseason win against Red Wings

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 2-1 preseason win over the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center on Wednesday:

1. Alex Nylander gets a shot on the top line

After having a goal and an assist in his preseason debut on Monday, Nylander was rewarded by the Blackhawks coaching staff by starting on the first line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. And he certainly didn't look out of place.

The trio logged 14:28 of ice time together at 5-on-5 and generated 18 shots for and only five against, according to Natural Stat Trick. They also teamed up on Duncan Keith's eventual game-winning goal in the second period.

Nylander finished with a secondary assist, three shot attempts (two on goal) and one takeaway in 20:44 of action. He’s going to give the Blackhawks management something to think about.

"I thought he was good," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Again, we're looking for his play without the puck. We know he's going to do a lot with the puck. It's their first time playing together so there's always going to be some kinks you're working out as far as the plays they're making and what not but he had a great net drive on Dunc's goal. Those are the things that people don't notice but opens up ice.

"We want to open up ice for those skill guys he's playing with. I thought he had a couple really good tracks. He was forechecking, he was skating. That's what we're looking for and if he continues to do that then he can be effective at this level no matter who he's playing with."

2. Individual standouts

— Dominik Kubalik was given a top-six role again after his two-goal night in his preseason debut on Tuesday in Detroit. And he was noticeable. He recorded three shot attempts (one on goal) and had a game-high four takeaways in 14:29 of action.

— The Olli Maatta and Brent Seabrook pairing turned in a strong showing together. They were on the ice for 20 shot attempts for and seven against and eight scoring chances for and two against in 13:28 of 5-on-5 ice time.

— Brandon Hagel was named the second star of the game after scoring a goal and tying Keith with a game-high four shots on goal. He also logged 11:58 of ice time and won both of his faceoffs.

— Adam Boqvist showed why he was drafted No. 8 overall in 2018. He's flashy and has elite offensive skill, which you can see in the video below. He also earned some praise from his head coach for his defensive play, which is the part of his game that's going to be a constant work in progress.

3. Penalty kill still ironing out some kinks

The top priority for the Blackhawks this summer was to shore up their defensive issues, and that included the penalty kill. And even though we shouldn't put too much stock into overall team performance and results in the preseason, the Blackhawks have given up at least one power-play goal in each of their first three games.

Fortunately for the Blackhawks, these games and stats don't count, but it obviously would be nice to head into the regular season with some positive momentum. Once the Blackhawks start to finalize their 23-man roster we should get a pretty good idea of what the special teams units could look like on Opening Night and beyond, and more chemistry will develop among the everyday players.

4. Roster cuts looming

In the last four days, the Blackhawks hosted their team scrimmage at the United Center and followed that up with three consecutive preseason contests. That was a significant evaluation period for the coaching staff and management.

Colliton said the Blackhawks are expected to make their first wave of roster cuts between now and Saturday, which is when their next preseason tilt is. The 23-man roster should start to take shape in the coming few days.

"We’re going to start," he said. "I don’t know exactly the timeline and how many and which day, but I can tell you it won’t all be in one day. And we’ll sort of work up to the game Saturday and we’ll have a tighter group, and especially for next week."

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Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list


Five Blackhawks make top 100 prospect list

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Blackhawks are in a transition period coming off the team’s long run as a Stanley Cup contender. There is hope for a relatively quick return to contention with a number of highly-regarded prospects.

ESPN ranked the top 100 NHL prospects on Wednesday and the Blackhawks have five skaters on the list.

Leading the way for Blackhawks prospects is Kirby Dach, who was the third pick in this year’s draft. He is ranked No. 6 overall. The top two picks from that draft, Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, are the top two prospects in the rankings.

Adam Boqvist is the second Blackhawks prospect, coming in at No. 29 overall. The defenseman was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft.

Defensemen Ian Mitchell (No. 68) and Nicolas Beaudin (No. 82) and right winger Alexander Nylander (No. 88) round out Blackhawks prospects in the top 100. Mitchell opted to return to the University of Denver for his junior year. Beaudin was the Blackhawks’ second first-round pick in 2018, picked No. 27. Nylander was acquired in the offseason in exchange for young defenseman Henri Jokiharju.

With five prospects on the list the Blackhawks had more than most teams. The Los Angeles Kings had the most prospects on the list with seven while the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers each had six.

ESPN also ranked the Blackhawks pool of prospects as ninth-best in the NHL.


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