Found April 10, 2012 on Around The Rink:

Two playoff mainstays from the past few years will square off in the first round, as the Pacific Division champion Phoenix Coyotes will take on the sixth-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. Each team has made the playoffs the past three years. An item of note; Chicago actually had more points in the standings than Phoenix did (101 to Phoenix’ 97), but Phoenix gets the higher seed because of its status as a division champion.

 

Statistical Leaders:
Phoenix
Goals: Radim Vrbata (35)
Points: Ray Whitney (77)
Goaltending: Mike Smith (67 starts, 38 wins, 2.21 GAA, .930 Save %)

Chicago
Goals: Patrick Sharp (33)
Points: Marian Hossa (77)
Goaltending: Corey Crawford (55 starts, 30 wins, 2.72 GAA, .903 Save %)

2011-12 Head-to-head Matchup: Phoenix dominated the season series between these two teams this year, winning three of the four games played while outscoring Chicago 13-9 and shutting them out once. It may only be a small sample size, but a 3-1 advantage would be pretty insurmountable in the playoffs.
Advantage: Phoenix

Offense: Phoenix’s top goal scorer, Radim Vrbata, notched 35 lamp-lighters this past season, more than the 33 put up by Chicago’s top scorer, Patrick Sharp, but overall the Blackhawks had a superior offensive game. Chicago ranked seventh in the NHL with 248 goals scored this year; Phoenix, meanwhile lagged ten spots behind, coming in at 17th in the league with 216 goals scored, a whole 32 fewer than the Blackhawks.Chicago also boasts far better scoring depth than Phoenix. The Blackhawks had six players with 40 or more points, and five players with 20 or more goals; the Coyotes only had four players with 40 or more points, and only three players who surpassed the 20 goal mark.
Advantage: Chicago

Defense: Phoenix may have allowed fewer goals than Chicago did this past year, but that is more indicative of their goaltending skill than anything else. Chicago’s defensive play allowed 2,343 shots on goal, the ninth-smallest total in the NHL in 2011-12. Phoenix, on the other hand, surrendered 2,593 shots on goal; third worst in the league.
Advantage: Chicago

Goaltending: It’s safe to say that Phoenix’s goaltending is what got them into the postseason this year. Despite an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the league and a  defense that allowed opponents to take the third-most shots in the NHL; the Coyotes were bailed out time and again by Mike Smith, and backup Jason Labarbera, who combined to allow only 204 goals (seventh best in the NHL). Smith racked up eight shutouts and had a save percentage of .930; both of which were good for third best in the league this past year. Smith also had the seventh-best goals-against average in the league (2.21). Chicago, on the other hand, relied on the dubious tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, who had moments of efficiency, but each ranked outside of the top 30 goaltenders in the league in terms of goals-against average and save percentage; and neither registered a shutout all year.
Advantage: Phoenix

Special Teams: The powerplay is not an area either team is probably very proud of. Chicago had the 29th- worst powerplay unit in the league in 2011-12, converting only 14% of their extra-man chances; Phoenix had the 28th- worst powerplay unit in that same span of time, having converted only 14.3% of their chances. However, Phoenix was quite adept at killing off other teams’ powerplays; they ranked eighth overall in the NHL with a 85.5% kill rate. Chicago’s penalty kill, on the other hand, was as efficient as their powerplay unit, ranking 27th in the NHL with only a 78.1% kill rate.
Advantage: Phoenix

Prediction: While Phoenix has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs in their entire 14-year history, this may be the year they finally, as Led Zeppelin would say, “break on through to the other side”. They matched up with Chicago quite well during the regular season, beating them three times while losing only once; and their goaltending will be enough to keep them in games while Chicago’s netminding will likely be their downfall.
Forecast: Phoenix in six

By Arun Morace

THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Coyotes' Smith has Vezina-worthy credentials

GLENDALE, Ariz. Sean Burke has a theory why Mike Smith isnt getting more Vezina-Trophy attention as the NHLs best goalie. All those old GMs in the East are in bed by the time we come on TV, the Coyotes goalie coach said of an award that is voted on by general managers. With (Ottawa GM) Bryan Murray, (Torontos) Brian Burke, (Carolinas) Jim Rutherford and (New Yorks) Glen Sather...

Special teams key for Coyotes, Blackhawks

GLENDALE, Ariz. When asked the three keys to beating the Phoenix Coyotes in a first-round NHL playoff series, Chicago Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa told reporters: Power play, power play, power play. If either team has to rely on that aspect of their game to advance to the second round, they could be in trouble. Chicago finished the regular season ranked 26th with the man-advantage...

Is Corey Crawford The Blackhawks Achilles Heel?

The Chicago Blackhawks can score. This season’s offensive performances from the Hawks’ elite forwards, and some impressive secondary players, put the Hawks near the top of the NHL in scoring. So the biggest question most people are asking is if Corey Crawford … Continue reading →

Toews expects to wear target upon return

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With Jonathan Toews' return from a 22-game absence expected Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks captain knows he faces a challenge in shaking off the rust to be effective, but there's another concern. He expects to be a marked man after the lengthy layoff with a concussion. "I don't doubt that that's going to put a target on my back,"...

NHL Playoffs: Chicago Blackhawks-Phoenix Coyotes Preview and Prediction

Playoff hockey begins this week, and if you’re from the Midwest you have a healthy dose of NHL teams to watch and root for. Four of the five teams from the NHL Central have made the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs (Detroit, Nashville, Chicago, and St. Louis), all of whom garnered 100+ points during the regular season, which shouldn’t be understated. Yesterday Pete previewed the intriguing...

Playoff Preview: Phoenix Coyotes vs. Chicago Blackhawks

The Coyotes really have bad luck with drawing the worst possible first round opponents possible as their first round matchup is the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that a lot of people think are good enough to go to the Stanley Cup Finals. That's not to say that Phoenix will be a complete pushover but the matchup doesn't look very good for them at all. There are a couple playoff...

Everyman Smith has Phoenix rolling

(Eds: With AP Photos.) By JOHN MARSHALL AP Sports Writer Mike Smith's frizzy curls jut out from underneath his backward-turned cap in clownish proportions. His beard, which he got a pre-playoff head start on, is spotty up top and trails down his neck like moss. And those suits he wears, wow: red, plaid, you name it, usually accentuating his long, lean frame. See him enter or...

Chicago's Toews symptom free at practice

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews is expected to play in the opening game of the Blackhawks' playoff series against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday night. Toews missed the final 22 games of the regular season because of a concussion, but has been practicing with the team this week in preparation for the playoffs. Toews said he felt no concussion-like symptoms at practice Wednesday...

Blackhawks-Coyotes: The Experts’ Picks

So what do the experts think about the Blackhawks’ first round match-up with the Phoenix Coyotes? Let’s take a look: Phoenix in 7  Simulation has Chicago in 5

Smith, Stamkos, Crosby named NHL's Three Stars

Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith was named the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday. Smith extended his shutout streak to 234 minutes, 25 seconds before yielding a goal to St. Louis during the first period on Friday. He stopped 31 of 32 shots that night and made 23 saves on Saturday as Phoenix claimed the Pacific Division title. Tampa Bay Lightning stud Steven Stamkos...

Blackhawks-Coyotes Preview

In the moments after clinching their first division title in 33 years as an NHL franchise, the Phoenix Coyotes shared a couple of hugs and pats on the helmet, then skated toward the tunnel leading to the locker room. As celebrations go, it wasn't much more emotion than they would have shown for any other game. That's because the division title isn't what they're...

Crawford feels no pressure as playoffs begin

(Adds AP Photos.) By RICK GANO AP Sports Writer Mike Smith has been one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, a major reason the Phoenix Coyotes won a division title and have home ice against the Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round of the playoffs. But it might be the guy on the far end of the ice who has as much to say about the outcome of the opening-round series. Chicago goalie...

Stars Of The Week

NEW YORK (April 9, 2012) – Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby have been named the NHL’s ‘Three Stars’ for the week ending April 8. Continue reading "Stars Of The Week"
NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.