The Chicago Blackhawks will try and end the home dominance of the Minnesota Wild tonight, and in doing so, book a ticket to the Conference Finals as they do battle in game six of their Eastern Conference semi-final.
The game takes place at the Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul and is scheduled to start at 02:00 BST.
The game is streaming live online with bet365.
Preview (Chicago currently lead the series 3-2):
LAST GAME – Chicago 2 Minnesota 1
BLACKHAWKS EXPECTED LINES: Bickell – Toews – Hossa / Sharp – Handzus – Kane / Saad – Regin – Versteeg / Nordstrom – Kruger – Smith EXPECTED PAIRINGS: Keith – Seabrook / Oduya – Hjalmarsson / Leddy – Roszival EXPECTED GOALTENDER: Crawford
The Chicago Blackhawks turned in a dominant defensive performance in Chicago on Sunday, and in doing so, put themselves back in the driver’s seat in their second round series with the Minnesota Wild. Tuesday night in Wild, they have a chance to set aside a 1-4 road playoff record, and in doing so, make a trip to a second consecutive Western Conference Final.
Coming up big for the Hawks on Sunday, as he has in every critical playoff situation he has ever been called upon, was captain Jonathan Toews, who scored the third period game winner early in the frame. The goal was his first in three games, and his fifth in the playoffs; what’s more, it was his playoff-leading 4th game winning goal of the spring, demonstrating once again how critical his production is to the Hawks success. Chicago is now 5-0 in the playoffs in games where Toews scores.
Another player who the Hawks needed to emerge was winger Patrick Sharp, the team’s leading goal scorer from the regular season, who had notched just 1 goal in the playoffs prior to Sunday. His game-tying marker in the second gave him points in consecutive games for the first time these playoffs, and gives Chicago hope that he could be turning the corner. With winger Andrew Shaw expected to miss another game with an undisclosed injury, look for Sharp and Bryan Bickell to continue rotation on the wing on both the Toews line, as well as the first unit power play.
WILD EXPECTED LINES: Niederreiter – Koivu – Coyle / Parise – Granlund – Pominville / Cooke – Haula – Fontaine / Heatley – Brodziak – McCormick EXPECTED PAIRINGS: Suter – Brodin / Scandella – Spurgeon / Prosser – Stoner EXPECTED GOALTENDER: Bryzgalov
The Minnesota Wild have been a night-and-day team depending on the location of their games; in home contests these playoffs, they are a perfect 5-0, yet their 1-6 road record has held them back from being a truly dominant playoff team. Luckily for them, their must-win game six against the Hawks takes place at home, where they have been a much better team to this point in the playoffs.
One thing the Wild will need to be successful again in game six, is a stronger performance from offensive catalysts Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund. The Blackhawks did an excellent job of shutting down the top-scoring duo in game five, and Minnesota will need to find a way to keep them from the Hawks top blue line duo of Keith and Seabrook, who were tasked on Parise and Granlund in game five. They could also use something from captain Mikko Koivu, who has just 1 assist in the series to this point, and has been heavily outplayed by his Chicago counterpart.
The Wild will once again turn to Ilya Bryzgalov in net on Wednesday night, in hopes that the Russian veteran can keep up the same level of consistency he has to this point in the last three games. Bryzgalov was considered a question mark entering this series, as he inherited the starting job only because of an injury to incumbent starter Darcy Kuemper. Now, he’s all the Wild have got, and they need him to be strong in game six if they are to stay alive
BOTTOM LINE: It is remarkable how well the Wild have done at home in these playoffs. Head coach Mike Yeo has employed his shutdown duo of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin in such a way that they have managed to hamper the offensive efforts of both Colorado, and now Chicago’s, top offensive performers.
But it isn’t a form that can last forever. The Blackhawks found another gear on Sunday night, and showed that they are as capable of winning a tight-checking, defensive contest, as they are a shootout. Combine that with all the Stanley Cup experience they have on that roster, and it’s not difficult to imagine the Hawks punching their ticket to the Western Conference Final in an emphatic way on Tuesday night.