What Is Chicago Blackhawks' Biggest Concern in Round 2 of 2014 NHL Playoffs?

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2014

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford blocks a shot during the first period in Game 4 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series against the St. Louis Blues in Chicago, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

The Chicago Blackhawks appear to be in full stride as they prepare to take on the Minnesota Wild in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

They have put the memories of an ordinary second half of the regular season behind them. They shook off an 0-2 start against the St. Louis Blues and reeled off four straight wins to survive and advance in the postseason.

Their opponent in the second round was forced to go to a seven-game limit to defeat the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round. The Wild didn't just need seven games, as they had to go to overtime before Nino Niederreiter scored the decisive goal.

But as the Wild were celebrating a remarkable come-from-behind victory, the news was not all good. In fact, there was an alarming development.

Rookie goalie Darcy Kuemper had performed remarkably well throughout much of the series. He had a 1.53 goals-against average going into the seventh game. However, he was not himself in the final game, and he came out of the game in the third period with the Wild trailing 4-3.

Head coach Mike Yeo didn't pull his goalie in the traditional sense. Earlier in the game, Kuemper's head appeared to collide with defenseman Ryan Suter's knee, and the goalie was no longer at the top of his game. Ilya Bryzgalov came into the game to replace him.

Since it is the playoffs, the Wild have not been forthcoming with medical information. However, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start Friday night at the United Center.

The presence of Bryzgalov might make the Blackhawks think the series will be an easy one. Bryzgalov has not had a save percentage better than .890 in any of the last three postseasons, and his Stanley Cup play has clearly been erratic.

The Blackhawks may be just a bit too confident when they take the ice against the Wild. They may think their championship pedigree along with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane being in top form gives them too much of an edge over the upstart Wild.

JACK DEMPSEY/Associated Press

Another factor that could lead to overconfidence is last year's postseason victory over Minnesota. Chicago dispatched the Wild in five games last year in the opening round. Minnesota had little pushback once the Blackhawks started to flex their muscles.

This year's Wild look nothing like last year's team. The Wild are dangerous offensively with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Kyle Brodziak and Charlie Coyle up front. 

The defense crew is also dangerous. The Blackhawks know that Ryan Suter is one of the best blueliners in the league and that it will be difficult to beat him in one-on-one battles. However, fellow defensemen Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella and Clayton Stoner are quite underrated. Brodin and Spurgeon can be key factors on offense, and the rest of the crew has improved quite a bit.

The Blackhawks certainly have a number of advantages that come with having a history of Stanley Cup success and significant talent. They have what may be the best one-two punch in the league with Toews and Kane, and they have another group of dominant players that includes Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

They also have a big-game goalie in Corey Crawford, although he has had some lapses this year.

The Blackhawks know they have an edge on paper, especially if the Wild's rookie goalie is not able to get back in the lineup quickly. 

How could they not be overconfident? That's most likely the biggest issue this team will face in the second round.