All hockey fans were treated to in the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs were multiple Game 7s, thrilling overtime finishes and a historic comeback from the Los Angeles Kings against the San Jose Sharks.
Now, it’s time to do it all over again.
Friday brings a pair of Game 1s in the second round. Here is a look at the broadcast schedule for both contests.
|Away Team||Home Team||Time (ET)||TV|
|New York Rangers||Pittsburgh Penguins||7 p.m.||NBC Sports Network|
|Minnesota Wild||Chicago Blackhawks||9:30 p.m.||NBC Sports Network|
With the first round officially in the rearview mirror, it's worth getting a refresher for what the entire bracket looks like for both conferences. That can be found right here.
Friday’s Game to Watch: Minnesota Wild at Chicago Blackhawks, Game 1
The Chicago Blackhawks may be the defending Stanley Cup champions with the home-ice advantage in their matchup with Minnesota, but the Wild actually held a 3-1-1 edge over Chicago during the season.
Who wins the series?
Minnesota is fresh off an incredible Game 7 overtime victory over the Colorado Avalanche and certainly has some momentum. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville noted that the Wild are a different squad than Chicago played in the playoffs last year, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
It is definitely a different team. You got to commend them on how they played at the end of the year to get themselves in the playoffs. Had a great run and had a lot of momentum going into that series, and they played a great series.
Both teams are dealing with health concerns. Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times noted that fans should keep an eye on Chicago captain Jonathan Toews:
Jonathan Toews is "a little under the weather" and is expected to play in Game 1 vs. the Wild, #Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.— Mark Potash (@MarkPotash) May 1, 2014
While it appears Toews will be all right, Minnesota’s goalie situation may be a different story.
Darcy Kuemper left Game 7 in the first round against Colorado with an injury and was replaced by Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov actually started the first two games in that series, so Minnesota’s goalie situation is worth monitoring.
While the Wild may have some momentum after their incredible Round 1 win, it’s hard to ignore Chicago’s relatively straightforward postseason victory over them last year when looking ahead to this series.
The Blackhawks held Zach Parise to a single goal in five playoff games last year, and Parise only has four goals in 20 career contests against Chicago. Expect that stifling Blackhawks defense to contain Parise yet again.
What’s more, Chicago shut out Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter in last year’s playoffs and seem to have the formula for success against this Wild team during the critical moments.
Corey Crawford will also help the Blackhawks win from the net. He is sporting a .935 save percentage in the playoffs and is a formidable final obstacle for Minnesota if it can get past Chicago’s defenders.
The Blackhawks will pick up right where they left off against the Wild in the postseason last year.
Their defense is too strong and poses matchup issues for Minnesota that will carry them to another postseason win.
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