Tonight the Minnesota Wild face the Chicago Blackhawks in game 6 of their Stanley Cup Conference Semi-Final series. Chicago holds a three games to two lead and the Wild one again face a game six with the threat of elimination hanging over their head. The best thing about game six for the Wild is that it’s on their home ice at the Xcel Energy Center where the team is unbeaten in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year at 5-0. You can’t hype this game to any greater extent. This is the biggest game in Wild history. Not the most historic, but definitely the biggest to date. The Wild have a chance tonight to tie the series 3-3 with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blachawks..
The Minnesota Wild have been beyond great at home this post season. In addition to the 5-0 record they have outscored the Avalanche and Blackhawks 16-5. Minnesota has not allowed a single goal against in the third period while scoring 8 of their own. When this teams finds a way to do that on the road look out NHL. The Wild’s five young guns, Charlie Coyle. Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula Justin Fontaine, and Nino Niederreiter have scored 14 goals and added 14 assists for a total of 28 points to date. That’s some very impressive numbers from a group that is only going to get better as time goes on. Most importantly though they need to score tonight or it’s season over.
The Minnesota Wild are lead in scoring by Zach Parise (4g, 10a) and Jason Pominville (2g, 7a). Next are four players with 7 points apiece, Mikko Koivu (1g, 6a), Ryan Suter (1g, 6a), Coyle (3g, 4a), and Granlund (4g, 3). Nine Wild players have multiple goals so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the breakdown is a bit surprising. Two players are defensemen, Jared Spurgeon-3 goals and Marco Scandella-2 goals. Four are from the group of five youngs guns mentioned earlier.
The surprising number is just three veteran players have more than a single goal, Zach Parise leads the way with 4 goals followed by Kyle Brodziak with 3 goals and Jason Pominville with 2 goals. The four big name veterans with just one goal are Koivu, Heatley, Moulson and Suter. Those four do have a good number of assists totaling 19 overall. In the chase for the Stanley Cup though you need the veterans to score. Period. The three forwards on that list are not performing up to their ability or expectations to date. That said here’s the forward lines for tonight until Head Coach Mike Yeo starts juggling:
Defensively the Wild will be going with five of six defenders used in game 5. Keith Ballard is back in the lineup this evening paired with Clayton Stoner. That’s a D-pair that can really lay the body on the Blackhawks. The defenders are going to have to keep up with the physical style of play that has kept the Blackhawks in check and frustrated throughout the series. They can’t allow players including Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp room in which to operate. Then those guys have gotten loose or had free space to pass and shoot the puck ends up in the back of the Minnesota Wild’s net. The Wild’s D-pairs tonight are:
In goal once again for the Minnesota Wild will be Ilya Bryzgalov. He’s been perfect on home ice while compiling an overall record of 3-5 with a save % of .877 and a goals against average of 2.78 in this season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bryzgalov is going to have to be at his absolute best tonight. Goals are going to be hard to come by and a single soft goal could well decide the Wild’s fate. He’ll be facing Corey Crawford (Craw-ford, Craw-ford) tonight. The Chicago net minder is 7-4 with a goals against average of 2.08 and a save % at .927.
The first goal is going to be extremely important tonight once again. I know, I know the Wild scored first in game 5 and became the first team to lose after doing so in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year. What I mean is that the Wild need to keep the Blackhawks on their heels and playing from behind. When the Minnesota Wild control play and maintain a lead in puck possession time their opponents get desperate and careless. Then Minnesota can jump on any Chicago mistakes and put another goal on the board.
Opening face off for Minnesota Wild vs Chicago Blackhawks game 6 is 8:00 pm Central Time (CT). The game is being broadcast on CNBC tonight with Eddie Olczyk and Dave Strader doing the call. On radio once again it’s my favorites Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid on KFAN 100.3 FM. The KFAN hockey experts Brandon Mileski and Pat Micheletti will be broadcasting from near gate two of the Excel Energy center from 6:30 to 7:30 pm. Fox Sports North will have a one hour per-game show at 7:00 pm and a post game show immediately following the game.
I’ll be back with a recap and more after the action. I can;t wait to get to my seat tonight and cheer on the Minnesota Wild. As always this is Scott Drain shouting loud and proud in the Stat of Hockey, “LET’S GO WILD, LET’GO WILD!!” and tonight once again chanting in my best mocking fashion, “CRAW-FORD, CRAW-FORD, CRAW-FORD, CRAW-FORD!”