Jan 30, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; A general view of the Xcel Energy Center prior to the third period faceoff between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks—a Playoff Match Made in Heaven?

At the beginning of the season, The Hockey News had Minnesota and Chicago meeting up in the first round of the playoffs as the 5th and 4th seeds, respectively. While that is highly unlikely, considering the dominating display by the Blackhawks this season, these two teams could certainly meet up in the first round as the 8th and 1st seeds. Could this potentially be a playoff match made in heaven?

The Minnesota Wild is a team that has the potential to make the playoffs this season. However, considering they haven’t seen postseason action in four straight seasons, it likely will be in the final playoff spot in the West. That doesn’t mean they can’t win it—look at last year’s Kings squad, they beat the 1st, 2nd and 3rd seeds as an 8th seed and went on to win the Cup—but their road will be very difficult and they’ll likely have an extremely tough Hawks team to move on to round two. Although, a playoff upset of Chicago, or even a gritty and highly entertaining seven-game series to force the Blackhawks to prove why they are the best team in the NHL, could put Minnesota on the map as a legitimate perennial Cup contender. Not only would it do that, it would also likely lead to a Winter Classic and make a very interesting matchup to watch when realignment has them playing each other more often.

Another attractive reason it would be so good is the star power on each team. Chicago has Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford; Minnesota counters with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi, Ryan Suter and Niklas Backstrom. Then you throw in the rookies and young guns: Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Jonas Brodin, Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Darcy Kuemper. This matchup just oozes talent, skill and potential.

With the departure of the Red Wings once realignment occurs, Minnesota becomes the next best rival for Chicago, and their recent games the past few seasons are the perfect blocks to build that rivalry upon. Minnesota was the first team to topple the Hawks this season, and they’re one of the few teams in the NHL that can take them the distance nearly every game. Minnesota’s greatest comeback in franchise history also occurred during a game against the Blackhawks on January 9th, 2010 in a game that saw the Wild down 5-1 with 14 minutes to go in the game. The Wild would go on to win 6-5 in the shootout.

All-time, Minnesota is 27-16-1-2 against Chicago, proving their team dominance of the Blackhawks isn’t a fluke. That number is only going to increase once Minnesota moves into the same conference/division as Chicago.

Bottom line—not only is this an entertaining matchup to watch, it could potentially be a huge money maker for the NHL. Most Minnesota fans would love to see a Winter Classic at the Twins’ Target Field featuring Minnesota and Dallas, or Minnesota and Winnipeg. However, a Winter Classic featuring Minnesota and Chicago is not only likely to be seriously considered, but it could be the most anticipated, profitable and entertaining Classic the NHL has ever seen. A meeting between these two teams in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs would only hasten such an event.

Tags: Dany Heatley Jonathan Toews Mikko Koivu Patrick Kane Ryan Suter Zach Parise

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