Skip to content

Five Q’s: Blackhawks-Wild series preview

Apr 30, 2013, 11:25 AM EDT

Corey Crawford Getty Images

1. Is Corey Crawford a Stanley Cup-caliber goalie?

Most of the time, people don’t question a goalie tandem that just won the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals during the regular season. But 28-year-old starter Corey Crawford is 0-for-2 in career playoff series and really struggled last season, so people are bound to question this one. Crawford, along with backup Ray Emery, combined to give the Blackhawks a .923 save percentage in 2013, the second highest in the NHL. There were a couple of hiccups in March, but April was solid again. If Crawford isn’t up to the challenge, it will be interesting to see how quickly Joel Quenneville is willing to switch to Emery. It’s been a while, but Emery did backstop the Senators to the finals in 2007. That “what if” scenario, of course, assumes Emery is healthy enough to play. He’s been ruled out for Game 1 with a lower-body injury.

2. Can the Blackhawks get the power play going?

This might’ve been a bigger issue if Chicago hadn’t been so dominant five-on-five this season. Even with the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, the ‘Hawks finished with the 19th-ranked power play, scoring on just 16.7 percent of their man-advantage opportunities. It’s a bit perplexing given all the top-end offensive talent they have, but the PP was a problem last year, too.

3. Will Dave Bolland be able to play? (And if he can, will he play well?)

Bolland missed the last three games of the regular season with a groin injury and has been ruled out for at least the first game against the Wild. The 26-year-old center has had a tough season, scoring just 14 points in 35 games despite opportunities to play with talented forwards. It appears the Blackhawks will enter the postseason with veteran Michal Handzus as their second-line center, which — no offense to Handzus — is hardly ideal. Bolland has proven himself in past playoffs and has 37 points in 49 games while playing well defensively and getting under the opponents’ skin. Chicago needs him to be that player again.

4. Can the Wild build on the last game of the season?

The pessimist may file this under “congratulations for not choking against a terrible team,” but Minnesota’s playoff-clinching victory Saturday in Colorado showed resolve, especially after Friday’s disaster against the Oilers. The Wild head into the playoffs with a 6-9-1 record in their last 16 games. Obviously, that’s not good. But head coach Mike Yeo — who may have been looking for a new job if the Wild hadn’t beaten the Avs — was feeling positive about his team after getting it done in Denver. “Let’s make it clear: We’re not done,” Yeo said. “We’re not going to sit on cloud nine and say this is a huge accomplishment. This is a step, a big step, a difficult step for us. Now that confidence is there.”

5. Can Ryan Suter shut down Chicago’s top guns?

OK, maybe “shut down” is unrealistic. How about “somewhat contain”? No NHL defenseman played more minutes than Suter did this season. The 28-year-old Norris Trophy candidate who (along with forward Zack Parise) signed for big money in the summer has so far been all his new team could ask for. Suter averaged 27:17 in ice time, scoring four goals and adding 28 assists. The rest of Minnesota’s defense will have to overachieve if the Wild have any hope of pulling an upset. Younsters Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin have zero playoff experience, so it’ll be up to Suter to lead the way.

For all the first-round playoff previews, click here.

Latest Posts
  1. Could Lundqvist start Saturday for the Rangers?

    Mar 27, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP

    New York plays twice this weekend.

  2. Eichel, BU avoid opening-round NCAA scare, beat Yale in OT

    Mar 27, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT

    Stu Wilson, Jack Eichel, Alex Lyon Getty Images

    Terriers move one step closer to the Frozen Four.

  3. Video: Berube defends how he’s deployed Lecavalier

    Mar 27, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT

    Craig Berube AP

    “In the middle of the ice in our system, it’s a lot of work.”

  4. Sharks shut down Mueller (hand) for remainder of road trip

    Mar 27, 2015, 4:34 PM EDT

    Vancouver Canucks v San Jose Sharks Getty Images

    And, quite possibly, for the remainder of the season.

  5. Five big games to watch this weekend

    Mar 27, 2015, 4:06 PM EDT

    Derek Stepan, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask AP

    Nail-biting time for Bruins fans.

  6. More bad news for slumping Wings as Sheahan (upper body) out

    Mar 27, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    RileySheahan2 Getty Images

    Joins Pavel Datsyuk and Erik Cole on the shelf.

  7. Goalie nods: Make it 33 straight for Dubnyk

    Mar 27, 2015, 2:23 PM EDT

    Devan Dubnyk AP

    News and notes from around the crease…

  8. Caps’ Wilson the latest to be fined for diving

    Mar 27, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT

    Tom Wilson Getty Images

    Washington sophomore now $2,000 lighter in the pocket.

  9. Once again, Canucks forced to put bad loss ‘in the garbage can’

    Mar 27, 2015, 12:36 PM EDT

    Vancouver laid another egg last night versus the Avs.

  10. How many starts does the Hamburglar have left?

    Mar 27, 2015, 12:29 PM EDT

    Andrew Hammond AP

    Because things aren’t trending in a good direction for him.

  11. Playoff watch — what the bubble teams need to do

    Mar 27, 2015, 11:59 AM EDT

    Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Andrej Sekera AP

    Three straight road wins has the Kings looking postseason-bound.

  12. Blues confirm Elliott will be playoff starter

    Mar 27, 2015, 11:12 AM EDT

    Brian Elliott AP

    “We’re on the course that we set two months ago when we made the decision that Ells was going to be the guy, and we’re not changing that course.”

  13. Nichushkin, out since November, moves closer to rejoining red-hot Stars

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT

    Valeri Nichushkin Valeri Nichushkin

    Russian sophomore has missed nearly the entire season with a hip ailment.

  14. Caps’ Orlov (finally) set to return to game action

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Dmitry Orlov Getty Images

    He’s been assigned to Hershey on a conditioning assignment.

Featured video

Hammond leads Ottawa's turnaround
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. E. Malkin (2477)
  2. P. Datsyuk (2405)
  3. H. Lundqvist (2250)
  4. D. Byfuglien (2046)
  5. B. Little (1933)