There is a sense among some that the Blackhawks have been on cruise control in their series with the Wild, and that as soon as they decide this series should be over -- presumably tonight in Game 6, if the theory holds -- it will be.
That's a plausible thought, and Chicago's Cup-winning pedigree lends it particular credence. But here's the thing: It's been five games now, and we haven't seen the Blackhawks' "best" game yet. And we're on the side of the fence that believes it has more to do with Minnesota than simply any on-off switch possessed by the Blackhawks.
Maybe we're wrong. Maybe we will be proven so in Game 6 tonight, when we expect a motivated Chicago team to show up at Xcel Energy Center to face an equally motivated Wild squad.
But in coming up with a prediction for this game, we weighed everything that has happened so far in these playoffs.
Minnesota is undefeated at the X in the postseason, with a level of play befitting the intensity of its fan base. The Wild also has had the uncanny ability to play well with so much on the line. Games 3, 4, 6 and 7 against Colorado, as well as Games 3 and 4 against Chicago were ostensibly "have to have them" games though not elimination games in all cases, and Minnesota is 6-0 in those (five of them being their undefeated home playoff stretch, and the other being the series-decider in Colorado). Chicago was particularly motivated in Game 4, and the Wild still prevailed.
We do not think it will be easy. In fact, we believe this will be Minnesota's stiffest test yet. But we are predicting an overtime victory for Minnesota -- 3-2 or 4-3 -- with Game 7 back in Chicago at 7 p.m. Thursday.