First, a little bit about Mr. Spinner:
Brandon grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and was introduced to the Blackhawks at a very young age when his father gave him a Blackhawks hat from a game he went to. However, his fandom didn't really begin to take hold until 2006 when he got his first job at a fast food restaurant, Portillo's. His boss was a diehard Blackhawks fan and would call Brandon the nickname "Bochenski" after Brandon Bochenski (fun fact: he is a product of Blaine HS (MN)) who at the time was a Blackhawk. He would sit in his boss' car and listen to the 'Hawks games on the radio and relay the score on headsets. From there on, his love for the Blackhawks grew and in 2010 he began writing for the blog Blackhawk Up, until the staff left to start Cheer the Anthem which he wrote for until 2012 before moving to Duluth, MN. While in Duluth he watched plenty of Wild hockey and then in 2013 he moved to Sioux Falls where he currently lives. In 2013 & 2014 Brandon was named the "Blackhawks Fan Amabassador" by the team itself.
Fun fact: You might know him on Twitter as Duncan Keith's Teeth (@DuncanTeeth). Let's get to the questions, shall we?
DC: Chicago seemed to stumble into the playoffs, but a gutsy 4-3 Game One win in double overtime made it quite apparent the dominant 'Hawks of old had never been far away. What changed, or what is it about the postseason that gives Chicago that extra "umph"?
BS: It is true that the Hawks seemed to "back" into the playoffs as they lost their final 4 games of the season, but each of those games was a one goal game and were against divisional opponents. However, in those four games they scored a combined 5 goals. That is where their problem was at, their offense. The lack of Patrick Kane and a rough power play led to that lack of offense. However, Kane returned in the first round and the Hawks were back at full strength. Also, the Hawks seem to live for the playoffs and tend to turn it up when they get to the postseason, as they have reached the Western Conference Finals 4 of the last 7 years.
DC: The health of Patrick Kane was a big question mark going into the playoffs. What happens to Chicago's postseason run without him?
BS: It sure wouldn't be too great. The original diagnosis for Kane's injury after surgery was 12 weeks but he came back in 8. A lot of that is due to his hard work on the ice while the team was away. Without him the Hawks would lose a a point-per-game player and likely not make it past the second round. I do believe that the team could have made it through the first round without him, but not far from there afterwards.
DC: This is the third straight year the Blackhawks will face the Wild - the second in the conference semifinals - and each series has seen the compete level and quality of hockey rise significantly. What has changed between these two teams in that span?
BS: Not much has changed between these teams besides some personnel. However, I don't think the Blackhawks are as deep on the defensive end as they have been the last two years. Their top 4 in my mind are better than the Wild top 4, but when it comes to depth I think the Wild have the better top 6. Kimmo Timonen hasn't worked out as well as they had hoped and Michal Rozsival has become a liability on the ice and I am not sure why Joel Quenneville is still rolling him out there. Other than that I don't think there is much of a difference with the Blackhawks. As for the Wild it's their stellar goaltending, timely goals, and defense that has them playing like one of the best teams in the league.
DC: Chicago hasn't had the best goaltending this series. Scott Darling has good numbers, but Corey Crawford started and ended the series against Nashville. Will goaltending be the deciding factor in Chicago's success/failure?
BS: I don't believe the goaltending was that bad in the previous series. Yes, Crawford got lit up in games 1 and 2, and both netminders were pulled in various games, but I think that the defense in front of them has been the issue. Crawford is the starting goaltender for this team and I doubt that we see Darling at all in this series. While Dubnyk stole the headlines, Crawford put up the best numbers of his career this year with 32 wins, a 2.27 GA and a .924 save % which puts him into the top 6 this year. Crawford has one Stanley Cup under his belt already and seemed to be back into his form for the final two periods against Nashville. I think he is finally settling in and not to mention, he is 8-3 with a 1.67 GAA & 0.937 SV% vs the Wild in the playoffs.
DC: The Wild have a renewed confidence, a Vezina finalist for a goaltender, a legitimate top-6 defense and a team with a considerable amount of playoff experience than they have in past years. Considering it was a lucky bounce off a stanchion that ended Minnesota's season last year, could this be the year Chicago has finally met its match from a State of Hockey team?
BS: It could be. While it was a lucky bounce, the Blackhawks still capitalized on that "lucky" bounce and moved on being in the correct position and keeping the pressure on. As I mentioned above, I do believe the Wild have a fantastic team and I am legitimately nervous about this series. The Wild are playing really well, maybe even better than any other team in the playoffs, and have a fantastic defense. The key to this series will be the special teams. The years in which the Blackhawks made long playoff runs they were the best at killing penalties and taking away the momentum from their opponents. In the first round they killed 72.7% of penalties, which is the worst among remaining playoff teams. Combine that with the Wild having the best PP in the playoffs (33.3%) I think that is where these teams will win or lose the series. If the Wild can keep up their special teams play, then they will win this series.
DC: Finally, what's your prediction for the series and why?
BS: I think this series will be a hard fought, even keeled, blood bath. Both teams are very familiar with each other with this being the 3rd straight year that they play, however I do not think that the 3rd time is the charm for the Wild this year and I think it goes to the Blackhawks in 7. While the defense has played poorly for the Hawks this year, they found something in game 6 vs. Nashville that they haven't had all year and that was a tight consistent defense. I think experience sways in favor of the Blackhawks by just a little bit with the core group having won 12 of 16 playoff series that they have played. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see either team take this in 6.
I'd like to thank Brandon for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. Best of luck to him and his Blackhawks.