The Minnesota Wild played the Chicago Blackhawks three times this season, posting a 1-2-0 record against the best team in the NHL. However, the series was much closer than the record suggests, and the Wild may prove to be a difficult opponent for the heavily favored Blackhawks.
For more on Chicago and what they’ll have to do to defeat your Minnesota Wild, Gone Puck Wild sat down with Keith Schultz, Editor of FanSided’s Blackhawk Up.
GPW - Which player will be counted upon to lead Chicago past Minnesota?
KS – Absolutely the captain. He has set the tone since drafted, and he will continue to be the example for the team. Remember, he was the guy running practice during the lockout, he’s pure excellence.
GPW - How crucial are youngsters like Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy and Andrew Shaw to the Blackhawks’ success?
KS – All the youngsters have played a pivotal role in this team’s success. Leddy has filled the hole of puck moving defenseman nicely. Shaw has been relentless on and off the puck, and Saad has just an amazing skill set. These youngsters have given the hawks stars more time and space by giving teams something to always worry about, so now you can’t leave anyone open just to double team Toews/Kane.
GPW - Will the stellar goaltending of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery continue as Chicago looks to be the heavy favorite for their second Stanley Cup in four years?
KS – With Emery injured it falls on “Crow”, and that can potentially be disastrous. If Crow can get off to a good start in games one and two, then we should have nothing to worry about. If he lets in a few bad softies, we could be in trouble if Emery isn’t healthy enough to play.
GPW - Which Minnesota Wild player scares you the most going into this playoff series?
KS – Zach Parise. He led the Devils to within 2 games of the Stanley Cup last season. A playoff tested player is very dangerous, and Parise is a very good offensive weapon. He could single-handedly take leadership of this team.
GPW - What is Chicago going to have to do to shut down Minnesota’s offense and solve the Wild defense?
KS – Chicago won’t have to do much different. They have played a mainly consistent game, with great success, which is their balanced team game. The biggest change hawks usually make is zone entry, dump and chase or skate it in. Don’t see that changing much. Chicago needs to use all four lines to wear out the defense and maintain maximum puck possession to overwhelm the Wild with offense of their own.
GPW - Any series predictions?
KS – Blackhawks in 5. The Blackhawks will be ready to prove themselves after the past few early playoff exits and they’ll show off everything they’ve got. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the Wild won’t be able to keep up.