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Chicago Tue Apr 28 2015

Blackhawks Prep for Wild Series

Chicago Blackhawks After a rather neurotic series against the Nashville Predators, the Hawks find themselves in a second-round rematch against a team hell-bent on making good from last year's 4-2 series loss in the Minnesota Wild. The Hawks were able to figure out Pekka Rinne just in time to close out the Preds, all while figuring out issues within their own net in Corey Crawford and Scott Darling (and then Crawford again).

The Hawks' defense didn't help matters, allowing way too many shots on goal to both Crow and Darling, but in the end they managed to pressure Rinne, especially the last four to five minutes of Game 6, and eke out a series win.

All is well and good in Hawksland now, but if recent play is any indication of how this team will perform from here on out, the result might be Wild in six -- or even shorter than that.

The Hawks went 3-2-0 against the Wild this season, winning the first three while Mike Yeo's squad was still trying to figure things out and rumors of letting the young coach go swirled in Minnesota. It also was before Devan Dubnyk got between the pipes to take the place of Niklas Backstrom and shut down the Hawks the last two games -- a 3-0 shutout on February 3, in Minnesota, and a 2-1 win at the UC on April 7.

Dubnyk went an astounding 27-9-2 for the Wild since coming over from the Coyotes in a trade on January 14. Minnesota sent over a 2015 third-round pick to steal Dubnyk from the Coyotes, who went 9-5-2 while in Phoenix.

Drawing the top-seeded St. Louis Blues, Dubnyk and the Wild closed out the series the other night in six games with the goalie posting a 2.32 GAA and a .913 save percentage. Certainly not stellar numbers, considering he only faced 149 shots, but good enough to move on against a Blues team which never really posed a serious threat to start.

One thing the Hawks can look to coming into this next round is the Wild have the lowest CORSI-for percentage of all teams in the playoffs at 42.9. That means the Blues didn't allow a lot of shots on their own goal, and if the Hawks can match that, they should have a shot against another solid goaltender.

The Hawks' CORSI-for percentage is ranked fourth in these playoffs at 53.3, all while leading all teams (tied with Nashville) with 15 goals for after six games, but have given up 15 goals in the process. The Wild have nine goals for while allowing 10.

The one thing that definitely needs to be addressed is Jonathan Toews's faceoff percentage. In Game 6 against the Preds, Antoine Vermette went 13 of 20, Brad Richards went 13 of 19, while Toews went a meager three for 15. Of those three draws, one was won in the offensive zone out of five tries; one was won in the defensive zone out of three tries; and one was won out of seven in the neutral zone.

And while Toews leads all scorers with eight points in these playoffs (three goals, five assists), the Captain will need to pick things up at the dot in order to provide more scoring chances, especially in the offensive zone.

Joel Quenneville already has made the decision that Crawford will start in net for Game 1, which the Hawks will host. The Wild already know what it's going to take to steal home ice and that tarnslates to bringing as much offense as needed to try and rattle Crawford and see how he'll respond. It's up to the Hawks to limit those chances and keep the Wild's CORSI-for at the bottom in order to move on.

 
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