The Chicago Blackhawks have had nearly a week off to rest and recuperate after eliminating the Nashville Predators in the first round of the postseason, but their task doesn’t get any easier in the second round as they take on the red-hot Minnesota Wild.
The two teams will get the series underway on Friday night at the United Center, but before the puck drops on this series, we have three players that will be key as the Hawks look to begin this round on a winning note.
The Blackhawks gave Bickell a four-year contract based on his ability to perform in the postseason, and the Wild is a team that he tends to play really well against.
If you want a number to keep in mind when it comes to Bickell and his success transferring over to the Hawks, consider this. In the 29 games that Bickell has notched a point in his postseason career, the Blackhawks are 25-4. In the 34 games that he hasn’t, they are 14-20. That is a massive difference, and it shows just how important he is to their offense at this time of the year.
His netfront presence will be absolutely critical as the Hawks look to get shots with Brad Richards and Patrick Kane, and his physical ability should help provide some defensive stability as well when the Blackhawks can’t dictate the matchups in this game.
If there is one player in this series that is the X-factor for the Blackhawks, it’s Crawford. He looked positively dreadful in the first two games of the Nashville series, and even though he had a great run when he replaced Scott Darling in Game 6, that’s still a small crumb of comfort after his poor play early on.
Minnesota is a team that can come at the Hawks with a lot of weapons, and Crawford has to be able to withstand the barrage. He did just that a season ago for Chicago as he almost single-handedly dragged them into the Western Conference Final with his stellar play, and he’ll have to be in top form again if the Hawks hope to win this series.
After sitting out the final four games of the series against the Predators, Teravainen will likely be back in the lineup on Friday night in the place of Kris Versteeg, who is dealing with a lower body injury.
Assuming that’s the case, and assuming that he skates on the third line with Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette, the Blackhawks need Teravainen to provide a spark with that group. Sharp has been solid so far in the postseason, but adding a great scoring and puck-moving weapon like Teravainen could provide a huge boost to the team.
In the NBA, floor spacers are critical and allow other players to do their work. Teravainen can fill a similar role for the Hawks on the third line, and if he can do that in this series, then he won’t get pulled out of the lineup anytime soon.