Oh wait, we were only supposed to make Replacements and Husker Du references. Oh well.
Now that we’ve sized up the Wild on every level, it’s time we predict how we think it all plays out. I do this with the caveat that last year, I wrote, “I can’t see how so many people are picking Phoenix. I think the Hawks win, and I don’t think it’ll be that hard.” Whoops.
But when looking at the Wild, I’m reminded of a expression I heard a lot when handicapping horse racing — or back when the state of Illinois would allow me to do so from the comfort of my own home. Minnesota just looks short.
There are some things to like about the team here and there. They have a couple of true top-end players. They have two really good d-men. They have a goalie who can have some great games here and there. But add it up with the rest of it, and it just doesn’t feel like they can run with the other horses in the race. Their Beyer numbers are short. Their back class just isn’t as high. You question them at the distance.
And it’s kind of all over the ice. As good as Suter and Brodin are, does anyone see them shutting out Toews completely? Suter tried that once in 2010, it didn’t go all that well. Sure, he Captain Marvel didn’t dominate every game or anything, but he certainly had an impact.
And I think Toews is as keenly aware of his three goals in 24 playoff games, and I can’t escape the feeling there’s a violent market correction coming.
Once you get past that, then it gets really ugly for the Wild. Because they’re going to try and keep Kane, Sharp, Bickell, and Stalberg at bay with a combination of background muppets that are only seen during the opening number. Is that going to work?
You fear Niklas Backstrom having the games of his life. But even still, he’d have to have six or seven of them because you feel like the way the Hawks have been playing defensively, the Hawks could still win one or two Backstrom games 2-1. Is he really going to string that many together?
Zach Parise is all that is man, to be sure. But even if he were to freak off, will he get enough support? With Seabrook not having to be paired with Keith these days?
Watch Matt Cullen, as I think he’s going to have a big series. The Hawks have been capped by second line centers before in the playoffs, and Cullen is a very smart and shifty player who will win a fair number of draws to get himself the puck. But Parise and Cullen shouldn’t be enough.
Especially when you get to the bottom six of each team, you see a huge advantage for the Hawks. Remember, Michael Frolik has literally dominated some playoff games the past two years. I know that sounds stupid, but there were games against both Vancouver and Phoenix where the dude was everywhere. And he’s on the 4th line. Are the Wild getting that from Torrey Mitchell? And especially with Pominville out tonight, there’s like six huge checkmarks in the Hawks side of the ledger when it comes to secondary scoring.
I just look at all the things that the Wild will have to do that they haven’t proven they can do. Backstrom would have to channel….a pagan god or something. Koivu will have to join Parise as a dynamo. Jared Spurgeon or Tom Gilbert or Clayton Stoner are going to have to dominate shifts. Brodziak or Coyle or Zucker or Clutterbuck are going to have to score consistently. And even all that might be enough.
And look at how much would have to go wrong for the Hawks. They don’t have to do anything they haven’t done consistently all season.
I see pretty quick and painless. Hawks in 5.