With their series wrapped up, the Chicago Blackhawks get to sit at home and watch as the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues battle it out to see which team will be taking on the Hawks in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Either matchup would be a rematch of last postseason for the Hawks, as they dispatched the Blues in six games in the first round and eliminated the Wild in six games in the second round to reach the conference finals for the second consecutive season. Both series were tough for Chicago in different ways, but offensive prowess in the first series and some excellent play by Corey Crawford in the second helped carry them through.
With the Blackhawks’ second round opponent still undecided, an obvious question arises: which team should Hawks fans want to see in the second round of the postseason?
While some would argue that the Wild would pose an easier matchup (not to mention the fact that the Blackhawks would have home ice advantage in that series), the reality is that it would be a tough draw for the Hawks. The Wild have played some of their best hockey as the season has worn on, with Devan Dubnyk launching the team from a potential lottery selection into the postseason. He has a well-deserved Vezina Trophy nomination as a result of his play, and the Blackhawks would be hard-pressed going up against such a talented goaltender.
The Blues don’t have that level of goaltending in net with Jake Allen and Brian Elliott, but they do have the ability to score at will and a mean streak a mile wide. Having guys like Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves makes life difficult by itself, but then you add in sensational winger Vladimir Tararsenko and gritty forward David Backes, and you can see why the Blues’ depth would scare the Blackhawks senseless.
In the end, the Blackhawks have the capability of winning a series against either team thanks to their myriad scoring options and their heaps of playoff experience, but the Wild pose a slightly more favorable matchup. The Blues have the physicality to really throw the Hawks off their game and the speed necessary to put pressure on Chicago’s shallow defense. The Wild have those things as well, but their strength is more drawn from their goaltending and their offense than from an overly physical or speedy attack at either end of the ice.