The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild are meeting in an early season Pacific Division rivalry game. Chicago has jumped out to a quick start going 2-0-1 to begin the new season. Last season, the Blackhawks finished with a 33-39-10 record. Minnesota is 0-1-1 to begin this season. The Wild finished with a 45-26-11 record last season
The Wild and the Blackhawks have a long history as rivals. Both teams have had some pretty solid battles in the Pacific Division, both in the regular season and playoffs. I expect this game to be really gritty. Neither team will have much room for error. This could be the game to watch on Thursday night.
Minnesota and Chicago met five times last season. The Wild took the season series 3-2. Minnesota went 1-1 at home and 2-1 on the road. Minnesota only outscored the Blackhawks 11-9 in the series. This shows that the games were close quite often and I expect Thursday night’s game to be no different.
Minnesota’s Offense vs Chicago’s Offense
Minnesota has struggled offensively this season. The Wild have only scored two goals in their first two games. Minnesota lost their last game to the Vegas Golden Knights 2-1. The Wild will need to put up more goals if they want a chance to win.
Chicago has jumped out to a strong offensive start. Jonathan Toews has five goals and six points in three games. Patrick Kane has four goals and six points. The Blackhawks have scored 15 goals in three games. They have also allowed 14 goals in three games. Chicago’s defense will need to shape up a bit to pull off the road upset.
The Blackhawks offense looks really good to begin the year, but their defense suffers. If the Wild have a golden opportunity to kick start their offense, it is against Chicago. If the Blackhawks can play a little bit tighter, I am not sure the Wild can slow their offense down.
The Blackhawks power play has been surprisingly bad compared to how successful their offense has been. Chicago is 0-10 on man advantages to begin the new season. Chicago’s penalty kill has not been much better. They have allowed four goals on eleven attempts, which is an underwhelming 63.64 percent.
Minnesota’s power play, like their offense, has gotten off to a rough start. The Wild are 0-5 on the power play. Against Chicago’s penalty kill, I believe Minnesota could get something going. The Wild’s penalty kill has allowed one goal on six attempts, which puts them at an 83.33 percent.
I have to give the advantage to Minnesota’s special teams. Chicago has struggled on both sides of special teams, which if it is not fixed should be a major concern. The Wild need to get that power play going and keep up the penalty kill. Both teams have a small sample size, so their percentages can change drastically with one good game.
I believe Cam Ward will start again for the Blackhawks. So far this season, Ward has posted a .843 save percentage and a GAA of 4.63. He has not had a good beginning to the season, but with Corey Crawford injured the Blackhawks do not have many options. Ward finished with a save percentage of .906 and a 2.73 GAA last season. Chicago needs to settle the puck down in front of Ward to help him get those numbers up.
Devan Dubnyk will get the start of the Wild. Dubnyk has had an amazing start with a .963 save percentage and a GAA of 1.45. Last season, Dubnyk had a save percentage of .918 and a 2.52 GAA. He has gotten off to a quick start, but do not expect this to last all season. He will be tested on Thursday night against the Blackhawks offensive unit.
Games between the Blackhawks and Wild seem to be generally close. Both teams see enough of each other that they know lineups and how to counter them. Each coach will play this game like a well-played chess match. Their will be little room for mistakes on either side of the ice. Chicago will be carrying some momentum into this matchup as well.
Chicago has the better offense but will need to see some improvement on their special teams and in net from Cam Ward. The Blackhawks will need these things to improve if they want to continue their success this season.
BetOnline has the Blackhawks listed at a money line of +142. This implies that they win this game only 41 percent of the time. I believe that this game should be closer to a 50-50 odds. This gives the Blackhawks a good amount of value. I believe if Chicago plays a more complete game, they will pull off the road upset.