Date/Time: May 9th, 9:30 PM ET
Television: NBC Sports Network
Moneyline: Chicago -270
The Presidents Trophy winners are trying to get into the second round of the playoffs, and they are heavy favorites to do just that on Thursday night at the United Center. The Chicago Blackhawks are a win away from closing out the Minnesota Wild.
Minnesota has all sorts of problems to deal with in net at this point, and this frustration has to be boiling over as the season apparently draws to a close. G Niklas Backstrom might give it a go on Thursday night, but if he can’t, it won’t be G Josh Harding that replaces him. Both goalies have gotten hurt in this series (though technically, Backstrom got hurt before the series even started in pre-game warm-ups). If both men are out, G Darcy Kuemper will be making his first career playoff start, and that can’t exude confidence out of the visiting side. Here in the playoffs, C Matt Cullen has probably been the best player on the ice for Minnesota. He has three assists and has created his share of great opportunities. No one has more than one goal, and that includes LW Zach Parise, who had to figure that he was going to be able to help the team generate some offense in situations just like this one.
All that Chicago has to do to finish this series off is to keep its foot on the gas pedal. It really felt like the air came out of the building at the Xcel Energy Center early in Game 4, and the Blackhawks took advantage to the tune of a 3-0 victory. Granted, this might have been a completely different series had Backstrom never gotten hurt, but there is no sense in playing the “what if” game. There was never a doubt that Chicago was the superior team in this series, and it has all of the stars making plays that Minnesota’s stars just aren’t making. Take LW Patrick Sharp, for example. Not only did he score the opening goal to get things started in Game 4, but he also scored a second time as well. Sharp now has four goals in four games against the Wild, and he and RW Patrick Kane have combined to put up 10 total points. G Corey Crawford has gone the whole way for the Hawks as well, and we expect that he is going to be able to close this series out, knowing that he has an outstanding 1.39 GAA in four games.
The Wild would have to be lucky to survive this one. It’s tough to see how Minnesota is going to be able to extend this series back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The United Center is going to be rocking and smelling blood in the water, and once that happens, we think the end result won’t be all that pretty for the Northwest Division reps. The Blackhawks march on to set up a potential series with the San Jose Sharks in Round 2.
Minnesota Wild @ Chicago Blackhawks Pick: Chicago Blackhawks -270
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.