Apr 9, 2013; St. Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle (63) defends Chicago Blackhawks forward Jonathan Toews (19) during the third period at the Xcel Energy Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild In The Play-Offs: 5 Blackhawks You Should Get To Know

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It’s almost play-off time for the Minnesota Wild. This is the first of 4 posts I’ll be writing in the lead-up to Game 1.

After locking-up the 8th seed in the Western Conference, the Wild now have the prospect of taking on the fearsome President’s Trophy champions; the Chicago Blackhawks. Most fans probably know all about their stars, such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith, and a bit about some of their other notables like Nick Leddy, Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland and Corey Crawford, but today I’m gonna take a look at 5 players who fly slightly under-the-radar, and who probably aren’t the first names that come to the heads of opposition fans when thinking about the Chicago Blackhawks.

Brandon Saad

Mar 16, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) skates in the Dallas Stars zone during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Stars 8-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Saad is the Blackhawks’ seriously impressive, 20-year-old, rookie phenom. He has done everything fans could have expected, and then some. Playing LW on the top line with Hossa and Toews, Saad has never looked out-of-place and has quickly become a fan favourite. His play is similar to Hossa’s, as he is physical, relentless but also highly skilled with great skating and shooting ability.

Niklas Hjalmarsson

Mar 16, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson (4) warms up before the game against the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeated the Stars 8-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What’s that horrible sound? Oh, it’s just Anthony Lapanta stumbling over the pronounciation of “Hjalmarsson”. It’s hard to believe that at the back-end of last year, the consensus amongst Blackhawks fans seemed to be that he would probably be traded as he has not lived up to expectation. This year he has come back with a vengeance and had a very impressive season alongside Johnny Oduya on the 2nd pair. “Hjammar” (as he is called) is a stay-at-home defenceman who reads the game well and can play with a lot of physicality.

Viktor Stalberg

Apr 15, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Viktor Stalberg (25) moves the puck forward against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Stalberg is a fast, powerful winger who is an absolute demon on the forecheck. He seems to be highly underrated by a lot of Blackhawks fans, but loved by the “hardcore” for his work rate. He is something of a folk-hero, and subject of the best hash-tag on Twitter: #StalbergPorn.

For me, Stalberg is the kind of guy that will give overly hasty, unskilled defencemen like Clayton Stoner and Justin Falk fits during this series.

Andrew Shaw

Apr 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Andrew Shaw (65) looks to pass against the St. Louis Blues during the third period at the Scottrade Center. The Blues defeated the Blackhawks 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

     

Wild fans are gonna be very familiar with Shaw by the end of this series, and most likely will hate his guts. He is 21 and a prototypical pest who plays with energy and physicality, constantly harassing the opposition. He will throw his body around and is willing to drop the gloves. He is also skilled and knows where the net is. Expect to see him on the 3rd line.

This guy is gonna get under your skin for sure:

10/10, great effort.

Marcus Kruger

Apr 4, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger (16) moves the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Kruger is a 23-year-old 5th round pick from Sweden. He is a smart 2-way center and a skilled playmaker, quite comparable with former Wild prospect Johan Larsson. Kruger has taken another big step in his career this year, increasing his playing time and taking a bigger role in the team. He has the potential to develop into a good top 6 center but will most likely be centering the 4th in this series.

Here are some of their stats from this season:

GP G A P Av.Mins PIM S/S% Corsi Rel Qual Comp OZone Start %
SAAD 46 10 17 27 16:27 12 98/10.2 +9 -0.495 56.5
HJALMARSSON 46 2 8 10 20:54 22 43/4.7 -2.2 +0.419 48.4
STALBERG 47 9 14 23 14:07 25 113/8 +3.2 -1.928 63.9
SHAW 48 9 6 15 15:03 38 64/14.1 -1 -1.862 53.4
KRUGER 47 4 9 13 14:09 24 50/8 +2.8 -1.209 39.8

 

I’ll be back tomorrow with another post. Until then, continue celebrating and remember: PLAY-OFFS!

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Tags: Andrew Shaw Brandon Saad Brent Seabrook Chicago Blackhawks Clayton Stoner Duncan Keith Jonathan Toews Justin Falk Marcus Kruger Marian Hossa Minnesota Wild Nick Leddy Niklas Hjalmarsson Patrick Kane Patrick Sharp Playoff Push Viktor Stalberg

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