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April 30, 2013 | 9:47am ET
Do the Wild have a Cinderella's chance?
By David Brown, TheFourthPeriod.com

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- The Chicago Blackhawks are just three years removed from winning the Stanley Cup. They still have nine players and their head coach from that championship, including their top-three defensemen and top-four playmaking forwards.

The Blackhawks scored the most goals in the NHL and gave up the fewest, which led to only losing seven games in regulation for the entire season; shortened season or not, it was a remarkable run to the President's Trophy.

During their run to the Cup, the Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals. Minnesota's Devin Setoguchi, Torrey Mitchell and injured Dany Heatley were apart of that Sharks defeat.

Only four of the Wild's 12 forwards that are expected in the lineup in Tuesday night's game one haven't played in a playoff game yet, and they're all on different lines.

Other than the three former Sharks, it's Pierre-Marc Bouchard and the Wild's captain Mikko Koivu who are the only other members of the Wild that have played in the playoffs together. It's clearly a big step for many members of the Wild.

"When you're a kid growing up, everybody has a dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup," center Kyle Brodziak said. "You gotta make the playoffs to have that chance and for the first time for a few years we were able to do that."

The Wild brought in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to start a new era in Minnesota. Their playoff experience and leadership will have to help carry the team. Parise brings 21 goals and 22 assists in 61 career playoff games.

"We're happy that we're in, but keeping in mind that we got the attitude that we want to go down there and win," Parise said. "We think we can win."

Experience Advantage: Blackhawks

Scoring Depth

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa certainly make the highlights regularly. Toews and Kane were both amongst the Western Conference leaders in points, and both are considered to be in conversation for the Hart Trophy. Their two lines can score at the drop of a hat... multiple times.

The Minnesota Wild quietly finished with three players in the top 20 Western Conference scoring leaders. Their third leader in points during the regular season was Jason Pominville. The Wild gave up a lot to get Pominville at the trade deadline and he responded by almost scoring a point per game. However, Pominville was injured Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings when he received a Dustin Brown elbow to the facial area.

Pominville missed the final two games of the regular season and the Wild staff kept Pominville's injury updates silent. Monday morning he was in practice on his normal line with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Pominville was also on the No. 1 powerplay unit in practice. It's highly unlikely that the Wild would spend one of their longest and most technical practices of the season using Pominville as a smoke screen; it's highly likely he plays.

"Guy like [Pominville], he can play all over the ice; [offensive] zone, [defensive zone], he's pretty much the complete package," Brodziak said after having Pominville return to practice Monday morning.

That gives the Wild a huge boost in scoring depth, not only does that third line become a shut down line, but it also becomes a line that can create offensively.

"Well [Pominville] is a big part of our team in a lot of areas," head coach Mike Yeo said about the return of Pominville. "As much as anything else the experience that he has in the playoffs and his leadership."

Speaking of third lines offensively, the Blackhawks third line is perhaps the most underrated in the league. Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg have combined for three goals and three assists in the three games against the Wild.

That being said the top line of the Blackhawks is a combined plus-12 against Minnesota this season. Those three, Toews, Hossa and rookie Brandon Saad can expect to see a lot of Suter and Jonas Brodin.

Perhaps the most crucial players in this series are Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi. If they can equal the points, or outscore, Patrick Sharp and Kane, it'll make things a lot more interesting. When the Wild were winning in March, it was because Cullen and Setoguchi were on fire. The two have played in 111 playoff games combined and will have to use that experience to give a Wild a chance at the upset.

Advantage: Blackhawks

Defense

There's an old sports cliche, "defense wins championships." The Blackhawks are solid top to bottom, in an area where many teams are in a dire need of depth, on their blue line. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson won the Cup with Chicago back in 2010. Now they've added highflying Minnesota native and former Wild draft pick, Nick Leddy.

Leddy finished the shortened lockout season with six goals, 12 assists and a plus-15 rating.

The Wild on the other hand have five players that have never touched Stanley Cup Playoff ice. Ryan Suter, who lost in six games to the Blackhawks in 2006, will have to help lead a very young core defensively; he will likely play over 30 minutes a game.

Minnesota is taking a big chance on recalling Marco Scandella from the Houston Aeros. Scandella hasn't played a game in the NHL since February 7, but he brings his much needed size, shot and skating ability to the Wild's backend. It could be a home run, or a big swing and a miss; if it's a swing and a miss the Wild will likely go a different route in game two.

"It's really exciting to be called up for the NHL playoffs, I've been watching it my whole life," Scandella said.

Advantage: Blackhawks

Special Teams

The Wild led the NHL this season in times shorthanded. Their penalty kill struggled down the stretch and if both trends continue, it'll be a short series.

The Wild have some of the best penalty killers in the league, but typically your best penalty killer has to be your goalie.

However, for some reason the Blackhawks powerplay has struggled this season; not a good bet to keep testing it though.

Advantage: Blackhawks

Goaltending

The Blackhawks and Wild met three times this season, the Wild's starting goaltender got yanked twice. The first time Josh Harding gave up two goals on two shots, but Niklas Backstrom came in and stole the game in a shootout to give the Blackhawks their first loss of the season.

The Wild did not give Backstrom too many nights off, and he showed signs of fatigue down the stretch in April. He's had injury problems and is getting older, but he's their guy in net and they're going to ride him until the end.

Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have used two goalies for the majority of the season, Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, but Emery is injured and not dressing for game one. Neither goalie was apart of their Stanley Cup run in 2010.

Advantage: Tie

Coaching

Joel Quenneville led the Blackhawks to their Stanley Cup and has coached in 14 Stanley Cup Playoffs. However, his Blackhawks have had two straight first round exits entering this season.

Yeo's job was on the line heading into the Wild's do or die game in Colorado, but his team responded with a victory. Yeo is a young coach, but has been given a lot of credit for Sidney Crosby's Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yeo helped lead the Wild's AHL team, the Houston Aeros, to the Calder Cup Finals in his one year coaching the Aeros, which helped get him his current job with Minnesota.

Advantage: Blackhawks

Health Questions

Blackhawks will be without Dave Bolland and Emery for Game One. The Wild will be without Dany Heatley, but Pominville's health will be a major turning point for Minnesota.

Advantage: Blackhawks

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

David Brown is the Minnesota Correspondent for The Fourth Period.


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