The Chicago Blackhawks get the luxury of enjoying a little rest and relaxation before taking on the Red Wings. Detroit is a familiar foe, having played Chicago a league record 798 times, including the postseason.
So who do the Chicago Blackhawks match up better against the Wings? Or would Blackhawks fans preferred the Sharks?
After a quick 7-0, the Sharks would go on to lose nine of the next ten, including three to Chicago in that span. The perfect record is all well and good, but the playoffs are a new season, and San Jose has been a better team since the two teams last met on the ice.
The Sharks match up well versus the Hawks. Physicality, patience, and superior goaltending have made the Sharks a serious threat. Antti Niemi, of Stanley Cup fame in 2010 with the Blackhawks, has been a force all season. San Jose also scored a healthy seven power play goals in their opening matchup. Whether they can do that again remains to be seen, but the offense has to continue to execute against a stout Chicago Blackhawks defense.
San Jose faces some of the most scrutiny in the game. A top ranked team year in and year out, the Sharks’ window to capture their first cup in team history is closing quickly. Aging stars like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle have yet to take their team to the top. It is safe to say this may be their last year to be considered good enough to win it all.
Detroit struggled with injuries most of the 2013 season. Despite the lost games, Motor City’s finest hung on through the final days to sneak in to the playoffs. If the Red Wings take game seven in Anaheim, they face a quick turnaround with little rest. The changing of the guard in the shifting Central Division was done quickly and emphatically. The Chicago Blackhawks won each of the four matchups this season, and most of the time the Blackhawks looked like the superior team.
Detroit’s experience is invaluable. The roster has combined to play in over 1,000 postseason games. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are still two of the toughest players to shut down, and youngsters like Gustav Nyquist and Damien Brunner are stepping up in the NHL’s second season. The Wings’ crutch is their defense. Niklas Kronwall is a solid defenseman, but as a team’s top guy…?
Goalie Jimmy Howard has to win games single-handedly, or else the Chicago Blackhawks will roll over Detroit. Howard will see a fair number of shots because his ‘D’ and forwards are not known for a physical game. Players like Johan Franzen can force their way to and clean up the trash around the net, but that consistent power has been missing.
Chicago has a better chance of reaching the Western Conference Finals by taking on Detroit. The Hawks have been rolling four forward lines with ease all season. Minor tinkering aside, Chicago poses a threat few defenses can contain. Trying to slow down Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and company is something Detroit cannot do.
Corey Crawford will see a better offense compared to the dump and chase game the Minnesota Wild played. “Crow” has been up to the task seemingly all season, and after saving the Hawks a couple of times in round one, he should be able to handle what the Wings or Sharks will throw at him.
There is a good chance the Chicago Blackhawks advance regardless of opponent, but if you are a fan that plays the matchup, be happy it’s an old foe coming to town.
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