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Chicago Blackhawks v Wild; HW Series Predictions

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We get the Hockey Wilderness writing staff's thoughts on the Blackhawk's/Wild match-up in round 2.

Doug Pensinger

The Wild have moved on to the second round to face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. You can bet that the Wild are looking to enact revenge for last year's first round exit. Chicago is coming off a big series win against the St. Louis Blues in which they dropped the first two games, but the won the next four straight to win the series in six games. The Wild battled all series long against Colorado and finally bucked the trend of the home teams winning every game, by beating the Avalanche in overtime of Game 7.

In advance of Game 1 Friday night, we asked the Hockey Wilderness writing staff their predictions on the second round match-up against the hated Hawks.

Tiffany: @1sadclown

Why the Wild will win:

There's no better feeling than Game 7 overtime win euphoria. The excitement of the victory over Colorado will carry into the next series and cause the Wild to have a great start. Besides, no one in the hockey world thinks the Wild have a chance. But that only means that the pressure is all on the Blackhawks. Will one bad Crawford goal cause the Blackhawks to lose their confidence? Will several? Since the Wild just finished playing against the goaltender who may win the Vezina, Crawford will be easy to play against.

Besides, who doesn't want to see more Spurgeon playoff facial hair?

Why the Wild will lose:

The rested Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks will beat the Wild, who are out of practice when it comes to playing a team that can possess the puck. The Blackhawks have four actual lines that can play hockey, and pretty much the whole team has won at least one Cup. The Wild are so uncertain in goal that it's pretty terrifying. If Bryzgalov injures himself in the warm-up, Josh Harding is not waiting on standby like he was last year. There is no reason to think the Wild have seen the end of their goaltending horror-show.

Prediction:The Blackhawks are the Cup Champions for a reason. But the Wild have learned since last year. Blackhawks in 6.

Dan Larson - DanTheMan811

Why the Wild will win:

A thrilling series in Denver should give the Wild some momentum coming into the first game. If the Wild can steal a game in Chicago, they could have a chance to take a series lead at home where they've been dominant. A big part of the Wild's success against Colorado was a balanced offensive attack. If they can continue to get secondary scoring and the big guys can step up, the Wild shouldn't have a problem getting goals. All year long, the Wild have stepped up under pressure. There's no reason why they can't surprise us again.

Why the Wild will lose:

Chicago's firepower will be too much to handle. Even if you manage to shut down the top two lines, the bottom six can still beat you. The Wild just don't have the defensive depth to compete. I just don't have a lot of faith in guys like Prosser being able to shut down Sharp, Saad, Toews, etc. The other issue will be goaltending. The mere fact that John Curry could see the ice in this series tells the whole story. The Wild were able to hang around in games last year with Josh Harding playing strong. It's going to take a few lights out performances by Bryzgalov just to keep games close.

Prediction: Chicago in 6.

Chris - mntrumpterguy - @ChrisRayBoyd

Why the Wild will win:

The Minnesota Wild have been playing some of their best hockey of the season (especially if you ignore game 2). We've been getting contribution from everyone and every line. Offensively speaking, the biggest disappointment in this series was Pominville, and his shortcomings were made up for by the emergence of Granlund the Finnish Demi-God, the complete beast-mode of Charlie Coyle, and the side helping of Nino the Knightrider. If we can keep this offensive pressure from games 3-4 at home, and games 5 and 7 away, we can offensively do this. Defensively, the mistakes have to go away. Spurge has got to clear the zone every time. Brodz can't make any costly turnovers- not with his minutes. Maybe most importantly, we must, must, MUST stay out of the penalty box. Finally... goaltending- everyone has to pitch in, block those shots, clear that zone, and protect our net minder! Bryz did not look very comfortable, and the defense left him exposed in games 1 and 2 - that can't happen.

Why the Wild will lose:

Chicago is a beast of a team. They're forwards can score, and they are fast... plus, NONE of them are 18 years old. They're defensemen have been around the block, know how to protect their net, and also know how to score. Even in the games the Wild won, the Hawks played very well. This is not a team that is in awe. This is not a team that is scared. This is definitely a team that has confidence. Unlike the Avalanche of round 1, the Hawks have no obvious weaknesses, and we will not dominate possession like we did in round 1. Even a cursory glance at their advanced stats is unnerving: the CF% of the Hawks rises as the score gets closer: 55.5 at 5v5, 55.7 at 5v5 Close, and 55.9 at 5v5 Tied. We cannot make mistakes, or we are sunk.

Prediction:The Blackhawks are the Cup Champions for a reason. But the Wild have learned since last year. Blackhawks in 6.

Joe - @JoeBou15

Why the Wild Will Win:

The Minnesota Wild stuck to their game and was able to dictate much of what happened on the ice in the series against Colorado. This series, dictating play will be a much more difficult of a task. The game plan will still be that same as what they were trying to against the Avalanche; get pucks deep and go to work on the defensemen of the Blackhawks. While the defensemen of the Hawks are in a class above what the Avs threw out there, it is important to keep attacking the the blue liners. If they don't, the mobile, puck-moving defensemen will find the talented forwards of the Hawks and they will kill you. Wild win by using offense as their best defense. For the times when they get into penalty trouble, their PK will absolutely need to keep up the great play they had in the Colorado series.

Why the Wild Will Lose:

The Wild have had times clearing the zone all season. In fact, turnovers at each blue line was reason why the series reached seven games against the Avalanche. The Wild will have the same lapses trying to clear the puck from the zone and they will get killed by them like they have all season. The Blackhawks forwards, and defensemen for that matter, are so talented that any extra time in the Wild zone will end up with goals against the Wild, especially with the questions in net for Minnesota. Ilya Bryzgalov will need to stand on his head in this series, or Darcy Kuemper will need to get over his injury...sooner rather than later.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 7