The NHL Playoffs are finally upon us, which means it’s time to look ahead to what the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs hold. From the best team in hockey down to those who limped in at the very end of the season, this year’s field is loaded with teams itching to see their championship dreams realized. All the action kicks off April 30th, so let’s take a look at what’s in store for the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks.
|TIME (ET)||#1 VS. #8||NETWORKS|
|TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2013||8 P.M.||MINNESOTA AT CHICAGO||NBCSN, CBC|
|FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2013||9:30 P.M.||MINNESOTA AT CHICAGO||NBCSN, CBC|
|SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2013||3 P.M.||CHICAGO AT MINNESOTA||NBC, CBC|
|TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2013||9:30 P.M.||CHICAGO AT MINNESOTA||NBCSN, CBC|
|*THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2013||TBD||MINNESOTA AT CHICAGO||CBC|
|*SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2013||TBD||CHICAGO AT MINNESOTA||CBC|
|*SUNDAY, MAY 12, 2013||TBD||MINNESOTA AT CHICAGO||CBC|
Big free agent signings helped put the Minnesota Wild on the map this season, but it might not get them much further than the first-round of the NHL Playoffs. The Wild roped in Zach Parise, who was coming to play for his hometown team, and Ryan Sutter this offseason but the results haven’t been as glorious as fans were hoping. There have been bright spots this year, but overall the season has been one where people are simply settling in. Sutter took longer than expected to fit into the Wild’s system and guys like Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatly have been wildly inconsistent all year long with Healty virtually falling off the map. Minnesota will be a good team in the very near future, and mark my words when I say they’ll be higher than the 8-seed next year, but this team isn’t ready to win yet and they’re running into a buzz-saw in the Chicago.
The best team in hockey. That’s the perfect way to sum up what the Blackhawks are all about this year. Injuries have held them back, and those injuries will affect them in their series against the Wild, but overall the Blackhawks will have time to heal while they coast through a series they’re going to win. Ray Emery needs to get healthy but Corey Crawford will no doubt fill his shoes well against the Wild. It might be a longer than hoped series if the Blackhawks coast, but that might be the best strategy to get back to full-strength.
This is a throwback game that will only grow in importance as the NHL realignment takes shape next season. The Blackhawks and North Stars used to battle all the time back in the day, and while the Wild don’t have the built-in heritage of that classic rivalry, this is the start of the next chapter of it. The colors and team name may be different, but old school Minnesota hockey fans fondly remember the North Stars and Blackhawks meeting up like this and it’s those old memories that will make his one of the better series of the first round.
Prediction: Blackhawks win series 4-1