Chicago enters the playoffs as one of the heavy favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Coming off a dominating regular season, which included an extended points streak and a Presidents' Trophy, the Blackhawks will attempt to win their second championship in four seasons.
Minnesota were big players this past offseason and locked up both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. With the payroll high --and expectations even higher -- the Wild managed to earn its first playoff berth since the 2007-08 season. Now, the club will look to expand that progress with a first-round upset of the Western Conference's No. 1 seed.
1. Will players be given increased ice-time due to the scheduling between Games 1 and 2? Specifically, the teams' top defensemen?
Game 1 is scheduled to be played on Tuesday night, while Game 2 will be played on Friday night. This will give the teams an extra day of rest. Ryan Suter finished the regular season averaging more time on ice than any other player in the league (27:16). With that extra day of rest in mind, will Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo lean more heavily on Suter than usual?
Conversely, Joel Quenneville played Duncan Keith an average of 24:06 this season. Will he see increased minutes from his regular season average? Patrick Kane has been double-shifted at times this year. Could he see an increase?
To summarize, will the extra day of rest alter either team's approach to ice time allocation?
2. Will special teams have any impact on Game 1?
If it follows the regular season trend then it won't.
Over the course of the three-game season series, one power play goal was scored over 14 collective man advantages by both teams (Suter was the lone goal-scorer). Chicago finished with the third-ranked penalty killing unit (87.2 success rate) during the regular season, while Minnesota finished at No. 18 (80.7 percent). Both power plays finished near the middle of the league with the Wild ranked at No. 16 (17.9 percent) and the Blackhawks at No. 19 (16.7 percent).
3. How will Corey Crawford fare in goal for Chicago?
The tandem of Crawford and Ray Emery acted as one of the most stable goaltending duos in the NHL this regular season. Averaging the lowest goals against per game average, as well as the fewest goals against over the 48-game season, Crawford and Emery frustrated opponents all season.
However, Crawford struggled a bit against Minnesota. Over the two games he started against the Wild, Crawford collected an .896 save percentage, which is the third-lowest showing against any opponent this season (.877 against Los Angeles and .737 against Colorado).
Emery will be unavailable Tuesday night due to a lower-body injury. Will Crawford be a factor in Game 1?