|Photo: Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images|
Forwards: If you are thinking that Chicago has the clear edge in the forwards department, think again. The Blackhawks are lead up front by big scorers Kane, Toews, Sharp, and Hossa. Minnesota can not match the Hawks in that department. But what makes this a close contest is the depth Minnesota has at forward. That depth is what got Minnesota past Colorado. If you doubt that depth, look at the goal scorers for Minnesota in Game Seven. Not exactly household names...anymore. But the Hawks are still explosive up front. So we give out a tie here (no shootouts will break the tie either)
Defense: Minnesota's defense was able to shutdown the high flying Avalanche when playing in St. Paul. But when the teams were away from Xcel Energy Center, the defense was exposed and they allowed at least four goals a game in each road contest. After losing the first two games of the series against St. Louis, Chicago clamped down defensively, and reeled off four straight wins to close out the Blues. During those four games, the Hawks allowed just six goals against. They made the necessary adjustments to easily down the Blues. Oh and by the way, the Hawks have Norris candidate Duncan Keith. No big deal.
Goaltending: Corey Crawford did not have a overly great year, but he did what was required to get the Hawks this far. He has the experience of winning a Stanley Cup under his belt from last year, and was also a huge part of holding the Blues offense in the final four games of their quarterfinal round series. Meanwhile, Minnesota's goaltending appears to be in flux again as Ilya Bryzgalov will get the game one start after Darcy Kuemper went down with injury. Bryzgalov was the playoff starter for the Wild, but was replaced by Kuemper in Game Three. This is not at all favorable for Minnesota.
Intangibles: The Wild had the upper hand with playoff experience in their first round series against Colorado. That is not the case here. The Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and did it previously in 2010 as well. They simply know how to win when it comes to the postseason. Minnesota does have good veteran presence on their squad, but they also are relying on young players to burden big roles for them. They just do not have the experience like Chicago does.
Coaching: Mike Yeo may not be as bad as you think. After losing the first two games to Colorado this postseason, he made adjustments. The Wild won the next two. His team was robbed of a game five victory. He brought the right attitude (by simply saying the team needs to forget this game) and made a few more adjustments. The Wild won the next two again to close out the series. He was a huge part of the Wild's success against the Avs. But his opposite number this series, Joel Quenneville, has been around the block a few times. He has coached the Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups, and was also a big part of the St. Louis Blues' success in the late '90s/early 2000s. Hard to go against Coach Q here. Yeo is not far behind.
Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell