Wild-Blackhawks Series Hinges On One Player: Devyn Dubnyk
The Chicago Blackhawks eliminated the Minnesota Wild from the 2013 playoffs in five games and the 2014 playoffs in six. However, those Minnesota teams didn’t have what this one does: Devan Dubnyk, a Vezina Trophy finalist and arguably the best goalie in the NHL since being acquired early in the winter from Arizona. Their Western Conference semifinal series begins Friday night in Chicago. The Hawks are -145 favorites for Game 1 at Bovada and -135 series favorites.
No Questions In Net This Time
In those two previous playoff meetings, the Wild had major goalie issues. The Wild lost starter Niklas Backstrom in warm-ups prior to Game 1 against the Blackhawks two years ago, forcing Josh Harding into the starting role after he played five regular-season games because of complications resulting from his multiple sclerosis. Last year, Minnesota relied on veteran Ilya Bryzgalov after rookie Darcy Kuemper sustained an injury in Game 7 against Colorado.
The Wild were struggling in big way when the team acquired Dubynk on Jan. 14, sending a third-round pick to the Coyotes. What a steal! Dubnyk played 39 of the final 40 games, going 27-9-2 with five shutouts, a 1.78 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Of the losses, seven were by one goal and two were in a shootout.
In the first round win over St. Louis, Dubnyk had one shaky game, getting pulled from Game 4. But Dubnyk stopped 66 of the final 68 shots he faced in the series, including 36 saves in a 4-1 win in Game 5. He then made 30 saves in Game 6 when the Wild eliminated the Blues.
Crawford Gets Game 1 Call
The Hawks are better overall than Minnesota but have goalie questions. Corey Crawford will start in Game 1. The starter in Games 1 and 2 against the Predators in the first round, Crawford was replaced after allowing nine goals in four periods. Rookie Blackhawks goaltender Scott Darling started Games 3-6. Crawford had started 57 consecutive playoff games for the Blackhawks before Game 3. After Darling allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period of Game 6 on Saturday, Crawford entered the game and stopped all 13 shots he faced as the Blackhawks rallied for a 4-3 win.
Crawford was the Blackhawks’ No. 1 goaltender throughout the regular season. He was 32-20-5 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. In the playoffs, he is 1-1 with a 4.19 GAA and .850 save percentage. Crawford started every game of the past two playoff series vs. Minnesota.
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