The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks are meeting on Sunday night in a battle for first place in the Central Division in what is the first of four meetings between the two teams over the second half of the season.
If the Wild are going secure their spot on top of the division they are probably going to have to take care of business in at least a few of those head-to-head meetings. If they are going to do that on Sunday their No. 1 priority has to be something they really haven’t been able to do very much in recent seasons: slowing down the Blackhawks’ leading scorer, Patrick Kane.
Not only because he is coming into Sunday’s game with 18 points in his past 16 games — including five multi-point games — to jump back into the NHL’s scoring race, but also because he has made a habit out of scoring a lot of goals — big goals, too — against the Wild. Sunday’s game is the latest Star Sunday showdown on NBCSN, and the focus from a Chicago perspective will be on Kane.
If there is a team in the NHL that has experienced what he can do on the ice over the past few seasons it has absolutely been the Wild.
Just consider that since the start of the 2012-13 season alone, including playoffs, Kane has recorded 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 31 games against the Wild, with many of those goals coming either in highlight reel fashion or in a key moment, including this overtime series clinching goal back in 2014
Even though he isn’t scoring at quite the same pace he did a year ago when he took home the Art Ross Trophy with 106 points (one of the highest point totals in the league over the past five years), he has still been the forward driving Chicago’s offense this season with a hand in more than 37 percent of the team’s goals.
Nope, as Mike Rupp and Jeremy Roenick discuss in the video above, the Oilers advanced thanks as much to depth scorers – and deft goaltending from Cam Talbot – as they did because of McDavid’s blistering combination of skill and speed.
Now, the Anaheim Ducks rank as an interesting opponent. While the Sharks could slow McDavid with one of the few blueliners who could really give him trouble – relatively speaking – in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, it remains to be seen if Anaheim can accomplish the same.
The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.
St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators
Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers
There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.
Klefbom is dealing with an illness, Coach McLellan says. "It's important for us to get healthy before we get to Anaheim."
It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.
Oilers win first series since 2006 after Sharks fall crossbar short of overtime
After making the playoffs for the first time since 2006, the Edmonton Oilers weren’t just “happy to be there.” They confirmed as much by eliminating the San Jose Sharks with a 3-1 victory in Game 6, winning the series 4-2.
Yes, those young Oilers just eliminated the team that represented the West in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final. Wow.
Much like the Minnesota Wild earlier on Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens are stunned to approach the golf courses so rapidly.
Many of the responses after the New York Rangers eliminated them in Game 6 sound a lot like what the Wild uttered, though there’s no potential bulletin board material like Bruce Boudreau’s line about the better team failing to win four games.
Now, it’s likely that most teams speak about being shocked and expecting better after being booted from the postseason.
Still, these reactions do shine a light on the staggering nature of some of these exits. Will the likes of the Blackhawks, Canadiens and Wild struggle to be in such prime positions in the future? With the Sharks needing a comeback against the Oilers, could the trend continue on Saturday?
The bottom line is that, instead of preparing for a Game 7 after winning the Atlantic Division, the Canadiens are packing up their stuff and worrying about re-signing Carey Price. That’s a pretty stunning turnaround, regardless of the soundbytes available.