Into the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs we go, and what a treat it is to see two rivals and original six teams battling it out for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.
The Detroit Red Wings won four straight games at the end of the regular season to grab the seventh seed in the postseason, then upset the Anaheim Ducks in a thrilling seven-game series to open the postseason. The Chicago Blackhawks had a much easier road to the Western Conference semifinals, beating the eighth seed Minnesota Wild in five games.
The realignment set to take place next season will see these teams in different conferences, ending the NHL’s most historic rivalry, but there couldn’t be a better way to end this rivalry than a series in the playoffs.
*The NHL hasn’t yet released a series schedule. Once it does, this post will be updated.
Even though the Wings are coming into the series on a roll, they aren’t as big as much of a threat as they once were to the ‘Hawks. The Blackhawks did not lose to the Red Wings during the regular season, and Chicago goaltender, Corey Crawford, has a career 11-2-2 record with a 1.82 goals against average (GAA) and a .943 save percentage against Detroit.
The Wings actually did the ‘Hawks a favor by beating Anaheim because the Ducks were the only team the ‘Hawks could not beat in the regular season. That doesn’t mean this series will be easy for the Presidents Trophy winner because if there’s any team that has proven themselves clutch over the years it’s the Red Wings.
Leading the charge for Detroit and proving why he wears the “C” on his jersey is Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg’s eight points is the sixth-best in playoffs and he was vital to the Wings’ series victory over the Ducks. Pavel Datsyuk has also been on his game for the Red Wings, racking up seven points on two goals and five assists.
The Red Wings are getting much-needed production from their core players, but not much from the rest of the team. That’s going to hurt them against a ‘Hawks team with much more depth and youth.
The ‘Hawks are seeing players such as Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and even Michael Frolik getting on the score sheet regularly. They will also see center Dave Bolland return to the lineup for the second round. Bolland is notorious for stepping up his game in the playoffs.When the ‘Hawks are getting production from all four lines, they’re tough to handle. And good luck trying to score on them.
Crawford has been more than outstanding for the ‘Hawks, posting a .950 save percentage and a 1.32 GAA. Both are the best in the playoffs so far. Even shorthanded the ‘Hawks are tough to score against. Continuing their dominance on the penalty kill from the regular season, Chicago was perfect against the Wild, stopping 17 power play chances.
The tides have shifted since a few years ago. Now the Red Wings have a tall order ahead of them, but they should still be able to make things interesting and exciting. But, in the end, it won’t be enough to beat a better and more well-rounded Blackhawks team.
Blackhawks will win series 4-2.
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