Do you think the Chicago Blackhawks are goint to steamroll the 8th seeded Minnesota Wild? If so, you probably don't want to continue reading this article. Once we take a look at the betting odds, we find out that Chicago is favored by a full two games over Minnesota. This means that the Blackhawks must win this series in four or five games to make it worth a bet. Based on what I see, there is value to be had on the underdog Wild. Let's take a closer look at three factors to consider.
Put up your hand if you can look me in the eye and say Corey Crawford is capable of a Conne Smythe winning run. Crawford has put up excellent numbers this year, but this is not a guy who has proven anything to me yet. When the pressure is on, Crawford is a very mixed bag. The talent is there, but is the consistency? The benefit he has going for him is the team in front of him controls possession a ridiculously 55.8% of the time and provides excellent goal support. Does he have to be great to win this series? No. But does he need to be great to wrap this up in four or five games? Probably, and I'm willing to bet against it happening.
Niklas Backstrom hasn't had the greatest season, but he is a veteran goalie who has been one of the most reliable goalies in the league over recent years. He has never had very much goal support in front of him, but the collection of forwards the Wild currently have could change that.
I'm willing to give the edge to Backstrom in this matchup until Crawford proves otherwise.
Thanks to a record breaking streak this year and flashly names littered throughout the lineup, Chicago enters this series as overwhelming favorites. The Wild limped into the post-season. They got smoked by the Oilers in game 81 and hung on for dear life against a lowly Avalanche team. Why people think these games mean anything come Tuesday is beyond me. The Wild haven't been in the playoffs in five years and will have great support from their fans. They will wear the underdog label well and play with nothing to lose.
No one is giving Minnesota much of a chance and people are overlooking a Wild team that has it's own fair share of quality players.
Names like Koivu, Parise, and Pominville should get your attention. These guys can be difference-makers on any given shift. Guys like Setoguchi, Cullen, and Coyle are quality support players who could provide the necessary depth to steal some wins from Chicago. The back end doesn't have anybody that scares you beyond the top pairing, but Suter and Brodin might be as good as they come. You may not be familiar with Brodin yet, but you will be after this series is done. Together, they will log a ton of quality minutes against the Blackhawks best weapons.
Chicago have a team that should strike fear into most opposing fanbases. With the exception of Stalberg, most of their top nine players play a good two-way game. Keith, Seabrook, Hjalmarsson, and Oduya are steady on the blueline and their advanced stats are great. They should win the series, but I think Minnesota are being undervalued in this spot due to public perception. I think the Wild win at least two games and give the Hawks a run for their money. They might even pull off the outright upset if Crawford stumbles. Emery is currently injured and there's no guarantee he'll be healthy enough to save the day.
Predition: Wild +2 games for the series (-112).