And so it has come to pass that the Red Wings will face the Blackhawks in one final Conference showdown. This couldn't have happened any different as fate seems to have willed the Wings past the Ducks, eliminating the Hawks best competition in the Conference. So much credit has to go to Detroit for making it this far, as that was the only series besides the Hawks series that I would have bet money on, and not in the Wings favor. Cheers to them, their fans, and cheers to this awesome series in front of us now.
Somehow, the number 2, 3, and 4 seeds have all been eliminated from the playoffs, which has paved quite a nice road for the Hawks. There is no question that this is now in the Hawks hands, just as this series in front of them is. It is theirs to win or lose.
I can think of no better team to play than the Wings, as everything about them says Hawks win. The season play between these 2 teams went in the Hawks favor, and when you take a closer look, it gets even better.
The Wings like to open the game up just as the Hawks do, but the Hawks have more firepower to back it up. The Wings do not have a very strong forecheck capable of giving our D-men trouble in their own zone, this will allow the Hawks time, which is what they thrive on.
Howard has played extremely well so far, but I wouldn't bet on him following that up against the Hawks.
Staying out of the box is key, as the Wings won this past series with the man advantage.
The biggest threat is obviously Datsyuk, and Zetterberg, whom I wouldn't be surprised to see them spread across 2 lines even though they usually play together. With that said, if Babcock can get those 2 out against the Hawks 2nd line, we could be in for some trouble, even though it would leave the Toews line with a shooting gallery.
Speaking of the 2nd line, it looks like Bolland will be back between Sharp and Kane. I have some reservations about this, as the place has felt wrong for Bollie all year. Handzus was pretty bad in the Wild series, so I see why he gets removed, but I have little confidence in Bolland taking his place. I think Bolland was built for the playoffs, so this gives me some positive thoughts, and I do think he will outshine Handzus' performance, but I think he is suited for a different role.
The better option just seems to make Sharp the center at this point. He is practically playing that position and the wing position at the same time these days anyway, and he is more successful at the dot. Finding a winger for that line is much easier than finding a center.
Speaking of the dot, all of the Wings centers are above %50 in face-offs. This could be the biggest point of trouble for the Hawks. Maybe even more reason to put Sharp at center.
However, Bolland back means a stronger team through each line, and that looks good for the Hawks. I know that Q is going to get an itch not to roll the lines like he has, but I really think the overbearing force in this one is the Hawks depth to the Wings loss of it. Especially if Z and D end up together, their other lines will not match up well against the Hawks.
I really wish Q and company had figured out their center issues earlier in the season, because I think it could have made them indestructible at this point. The options, and seeing an even more superior 4th line makes me salivate. I guess we have to wait for next year on that note.
Still, the Hawks look really good for this one. The Hawks offense is better, and the Wings are an offensive team. Playing at their potential, our defensive roster should be the icing on the cake. The Wings on the other hand, work well as a team, are part of great system, have the best behind the bench, and they just beat the Ducks. This could make it interesting, but my money would be on a 4-1 series win if I was a betting man.
Filed under: Pregame