NBC’s coverage of the 2016-17 NHL season continues on Sunday afternoon when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild in a massive game when it comes to ultimately deciding the top spot in the Central Division.
The Blackhawks enter the game three points back of the Wild for the top spot in the division, while this is the final head-to-head meeting of the season between the two teams.
It is the classic four-point game on the NHL schedule because of how much things can change depending on the outcome. A regulation win by the Blackhawks would close the gap to just a single point in the standings and help create what would surely be a frantic stretch run. But a Minnesota win in regulation would push the gap to five points while the Wild would still have one game in hand. The Blackhawks have won two of the previous three meetings this season.
Obviously, Sunday is a massive game.
Even though the Blackhawks enter the game having lost back-to-back games, 1-0 loss to Anaheim that they probably deserved a better fate in, and a 4-2 loss to Detroit, they are still in the middle of a 27-game stretch that has seen them win 19 games. Before these past two losses they had won seven in a row and 12 out of 13. They have been doing it with an offense that has been lighting up every defense and goaltender that has crossed their path, averaging more than 3.6 goals per game since Feb. 1.
On Sunday they are going to have to do it against the best goaltender in the NHL this season when they up against Devan Dubnyk.
Dubnyk enters the game with a league-best .932 save percentage and has established himself as one of the front runners for the Vezina Trophy. He has been the backbone for the Wild’s success this season as they have climbed to the top of the Western Conference standings and look to give coach Bruce Boudreau yet another division title to add to his resume.
But it’s not just about Dubnyk and his success this season. The Wild boast one of the NHL’s best, most balanced offenses, bringing seven forwards with at least 40 points on the season into Sunday’s game. That includes Mikael Granlund who is in the middle of a breakout season, leading the team with 62 points in 66 games, having already shattered his previous career highs in goals and total points with still 16 games to play on the season.
Puck drop on Sunday is 12:30 p.m. ET, and you can catch all of the action on NBC or on our live stream.