Minnesota Wild –

Learning from Round 1: The top line of Parise, Granlund, and Pominville combined for 17 points against St. Louis, and they will need to keep that momentum going into the 2nd Round with Chicago. The Wild finished 4-of-12 with the man-advantage and lead the League with 33.3 percent power-play efficiency in six games; this is a phenomenal change after a regular season of weakness in that area.

Winning Formula: The Wild has had consistency on all lines, and has had some stellar individual efforts. Eight players scored at least one goal in their first matchup; Zach Parise led the Wild with seven points (three goals), and Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter and captain Mikko Koivu each had at least three points. The Wild has a good offensive force, and Suter, Brodin, Spurgeon and Scandella on defense as well as Dubnyk in the crease can keep this team in the fight. Minnesota’s power play ranked in the bottom five during the regular season, but was exceptional against the Blues. The penalty-killing unit finished 1st in the NHL during the regular season and went 9-of-11 (81.8 percent) in the 1st Round. Playing significant roles on the PK were defensemen Suter, Brodin, Spurgeon, and Scandella, and forwards Koivu, Brodziak and Cooke.


Chicago Blackhawks –

Learning from Round 1: In the first round Chicago pulled Crawford in Game 1, and Darling continued to play until Crawford relieved him in Game 6 which contributed to the team moving on to the 2nd Round. It’s important that this team uses all its resources and that includes switching goaltending up when the current man in the crease isn’t being effective. They learned that their fourth line was more effective at winning puck battles when center Marcus Kruger was flanked by Andrew Desjardins at left wing and Andrew Shaw on the right. Timonen and Rozsival have moments when they contribute on defense, but their lapses sometimes lead to scoring chances for the opposing team.  Rozsival finished with a minus-2 rating and gave the puck away too often. The Hawks had the one of the best PK units in the league going into the playoffs, but not in the 1st Round; they allowed six goals in 22 times shorthanded against Nashville for a 72.7 percent success rate tied for 13th among the 16 playoff teams. With the backsliding of their effectiveness on their penalty kill they will need to be better on the power play for their special teams to be effective, but their power play only scored three goals in 19 chances (15.8 percent) in the 1st round.

Winning Formula: Producing offense is a major component for the Blackhawks; Jonathan Toews is tied for the scoring lead in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight points (three goals, five assists), and Kane has seven points (two goals, five assists). Patrick Sharp had a strong opening series with three goals and two assists, and he’s tied with right wing Marian Hossa for the Chicago lead in shots on goal (24). Hossa hasn’t scored, but has five assists. This team doesn’t have as much depth on the blueline as they did when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010 or 2013, but Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya still play fast and smart. Keith made goals that decided Game 1 in double overtime, and Game 6 late in the third period. Seabrook had a goal that ended Game 4 one minute into triple overtime for a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. They need to strengthen their PK back to how it was in the regular season and keep calm dealing with the Wild’s forecheck.

Goalie Matchup: Crawford will be starting Game 1. In the first round Crawford began the postseason as the starter, allowed nine goals in his first four periods, and was replaced by Darling. In Game 5 Darling allowed four goals in a 5-2 loss and let in three more in the first period of Game 6 before getting pulled in favor of Crawford who earned the win. Crawford didn’t allow a goal on 13 shots, just as Darling didn’t allow a goal on 42 shots in relief to win Game 1 in double overtime. Prior to the Round 1 series, Crawford had never been pulled from a playoff start by Quenneville and started 57 straight postseason games for the Blackhawks prior to Darling’s start in Game 3. Darling has the better 2.21 goals-against average and .936 save percentage while Crawford in 4.19 goals-against average and has a .850 save percentage. Playing in the crease for Minnesota, Dubnyk, finished the opening round with a 2.32 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. After allowing six goals on 17 shots and being replaced by Kuemper late in the second period of a 6-1 loss in Game 4, Dubnyk rebounded with 36 saves in a 4-1 victory in Game 5 in St. Louis. The team seems to be feeding off of his confidence and ability to thrive under pressure. Dubnyk made saves on 66 of the final 68 shots he faced in Games 5 and 6 after being pulled in the Game 4 loss. In the Game 6 clincher, Dubnyk made 14 saves in the second period and 12 in the third to close the series. In the regular season Dubnyk was 27-9-2 with a 1.78 GAA, .936 save percentage and five shutouts in 38 straight starts. Of the losses, seven were by one goal and two were in a shootout.

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Analysis from the first round for Chicago and Minnesota‘s matchups.