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Pick 'em Poll: Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Minnesota Wild (8)

The Minnesota Wild committed $198 million last summer to get where the Islanders are today.

You're doing it wrong.
You're doing it wrong.
Jonathan Daniel

Lighthouse Hockey is an Islanders-focused site, but we have an annual tradition of polling our readers to pick each playoff series. No reason to dispense with this tradition just because the Islanders have put us in the suddenly unfamiliar position of watching playoff series that involve them.

The Minnesota Wild shocked the world in 2012 by committing roughly the GDP of Anguilla on free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. After a slow start for Suter, he rallied and is even earning Norris Trophy talk. Parise led the team in scoring with 38 points in 48 games. Mikko Koivu was one point behind Parise, and is 54% on faceoffs.

The Wild's expenditure has paid off, and they are now ... in the same spot the Islanders are in: Entering the playoffs for the first time in years, as an eighth seed against a conference power.

Min-greenslim_medium Chi-slim_medium
Season Series: Chicago 2-0-1 (2 reg. W, 1 SOL)

Record GF/GP GA SF SA PP% PK% Fenw/Close
MIN 26-19-3 2.4 (22nd) 2.6 (16th) 28.8 27.1 17.9 80.7 48.68 (19th)
CHI 36-7-5 3.10 (2nd) 2.02 (1st) 31.1 26.2 16.7 87.2 55.8 (2nd)

If someone foreign to hockey or pro sports asked me how to describe sports fans, I would say that last season some Hawks fans were ready to fire coach Joel Quenneville, who led them to a Stanley Cup in 2010, and this spring he led them to a record-shattering season-opening regulation undefeated streak and the top seed in the Western Conference. If I didn't run a hockey site, I would almost dare to suggest that fans don't always know what's best.

If someone foreign to hockey or pro sports asked me how to describe sports owners, I would say that Craig Leipold bailed on Nashville -- almost leaving them to failure -- then swooped up the Wild, spent a bunch of money on Parise and Suter ... and promptly put himself at the forefront of the NHL lockout charge complaining things cost too much. If I didn't run a hockey site that feeds the monkey, I would almost dare to suggest ownership statements be taken with a grain of salt.

Yet we still watch.

Mitigating Factors: The Hawks Patrick Sharp has reportedly battled a shoulder injury much of the season, and David Bolland is out for Game 1. Chicago re-acquired Michael Handzus down the stretch to provide coverage at center.

The Wild will be without Dany Heatley (who isn't really the Heatley of old anyway) and deadline acquisition Jason Pominville is questionable thanks to a suspension-worthy hit to his head.

Here's the series schedule:

Game Date Matchup Time (ET) National TV
Game 1 Tue, Apr 30 Wild at Blackhawks 8 p.m. NBCSN, CBC
Game 2 Fri, May 3 Wild at Blackhawks 9:30 p.m. NBCSN, CBC
Game 3 Sun, May 5 Blackhawks at Wild 3 p.m. NBC, CBC
Game 4 Tue, May 7 Blackhawks at Wild 9:30 p.m. NBCSN, CBC
Game 5* Thu, May 9 Wild at Blackhawks TBD CBC
Game 6* Sat, May 11 Blackhawks at Wild TBD CBC
Game 7* Sun, May 12 Wild at Blackhawks TBD CBC

Get full Blackhawks coverage at Second City Hockey, while our friends at Hockey Wilderness have you covered from the Minnesota perspective.

And now it's time to make your pick...