Tonight, the Blackhawks begin their quest for their second Stanley Cup championship in three years. For the team that wins it all sometime in June, they will complete a two-month grind that tests the limits of endurance, the quality of the team’s character and the sheer incompetence of NBC analysts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury. These guys are so bad they make Ken Harrelson seem almost listenable and anyone who has ever heard that douchenozzle knows what a feat that is. Seriously, how anyone can listen to that whining, cloying homer is beyond me. I guess some people enjoy having their ears raped by a talentless hack.


Please, kill me before he speaks again.

Speaking of talentless hacks, let me kick off my 1st round preview of the Hawks/Coyotes series.

Offense

On paper, the Hawks are the dominant offensive team in the series. Led by Patrick Sharp’s 33 goals, the Hawks boast 4 other players with 20+ goals and Dave Bolland came close with 19. In contrast, the Coyotes have only 3 players with 20 or more goals, led by Radim Vrbata’s career high of 35. However, they spread their scoring around a bit better than the Hawks do, with 6 players between 11 and 17 goals. But for sheer firepower, the Coyotes can’t match the top two lines the Hawks can roll out there, especially if Toews returns (we’ll cover that later in the preview). The Hawks high-powered offense scored 248 goals as opposed to only 216 for Phoenix. At nearly half a goal more per game, the Hawks filled the net better all year than the Coyotes did. Good luck to the Coyotes in shutting down all that offense the Hawks have. The Hawks don’t need to worry about much more than the top line of the Coyotes.


Sharpie is a key offensive player and a helluva handsome dude. Guys like us are rarities!!

EDGE…Blackhawks

Defense

Since the Johnny Oduya trade, the Hawks overall defense improved greatly. Oduya was a stabilizing influence on the blue line and was the slick puck-moving defenseman we hope Nick Leddy can become. His presence allowed Leddy and others to play less minutes, including Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, which will help greatly in the long run. The addition of youngster Dylan Olson and the return of Sami Lepisto give the Hawks tremendous depth on the back end, which is incredibly important during a long playoff run. (As an aside, the 21 year old Leddy finished 2nd among Hawks d-men in scoring with 37 points, behind only Duncan Keith’s 40 points, a lofty accomplishment for someone who became a whipping boy for the short-sighted idiot faction out there. You know, the same jerkoffs who screamed for Kane to be traded at less-than-peak value). We have a solid 8-man rotation going right now. The Coyotes may not be as deep here, but any team with Keith Yandle and youngster Oliver Ekman-Larsson has a top pair that is as good as anyone’s. The rest of their defense is fair at best, with former Hawks suckwad Adrian Aucoin heading up the less-than-fantastic Coyote defense. They better get some seriously effective minutes from Yandle/Ekman-Larsson if they want to take this series. EDGE….Blackhawks

Goaltending

The old adage says a hot goalie can win a playoff series all by himself. While that may be a slight exaggeration, the way Mike Smith has been playing for Phoenix, it may hold about as true as it gets. He had a breakout year at age 29, not a huge surprise for a goalie. He set career bests in every category and has looked very bit the type of guy who can carry a team for stretches all by himself. On the flipside, Corey Crawford has been up and down like a $10 crack whore in the hood on the day public aid checks arrive.


Yes, Crawford has been about this scary at times. Not pretty, I know….

Even with his second consecutive 30 win season, his problems are pretty evident. When he’s confident, he’s amazing. When he lets a bad goal in, you can almost see him shrink in size and his confidence evaporate. Smith has been on his game far more often this season, but he will have to step it up yet another level for Phoenix to beat the Hawks.

EDGE….Coyotes

Coaching

Dave Tippett has been fantastic at guiding the broke-ass Coyotes to their first-ever division title and the 3 seed in the Western Conference. Somehow, he guided them to 97 points with extremely limited resources. In his 8 seasons as a head coach, he’s made 7 playoff appearances but has never won the Cup, but did get to the Western finals in 2008 with Dallas. Joel Quenneville has been the right guy for the Hawks job since his hiring early in the 2008-09 season, making the playoffs each season and winning the 2010 Stanley Cup. Both are head coaches any team would be fortunate to have in their employ. Whichever teams loses the series won’t do so because the coach is at fault. EDGE….Even

Special Teams

When it comes to the phrase “Power play”, both team are full of shit on that count. The Hawks ranked 26th and the Coyotes ranked even worse at 29th out of 30 NHL teams. These respective units are about as scary as the Charlie Brown Halloween special.


Even a rock is more than what these power plays have provided.

Neither one should make much of an impact in the series. As for the penalty kill units, Phoenix ranked a solid 8th overall while the Hawks were 27th. The Hawks were pretty solid for some long stretches at times, but they really shit the bed for other periods. This could be a strength for Phoenix, but overall it looks like a wash. EDGE….Even

Intangibles

The single biggest intangible in the series, and possibly the entire NHL playoffs, is the health of Hawks team captain Jonathan Toews. An elite player like Toews can make a difference in any series, as evidenced by the Conn Smythe trophy residing in his trophy case alongside his World Junior championship, Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup title. He excels in every facet of the game and is even better as a leader. If he’s back at full strength, Phoenix doesn’t stand much of a chance. The whole of the NHL should be wary of us if Toews is 100%. If he can’t play, then this series just became a dogfight. The biggest intangible Phoenix may have is the home-ice advantage, but one road win by the Hawks will erase that.


This is very tangible. And with Johnny, it’s attainable.

EDGE….Blackhawks

Prediction

In my column last week, I predicted the Hawks to win this possible series in 5 games. (I didn’t sacrifice a live chicken like I said I would last week, but I did demolish a bigass steak on Easter, so I’m hoping that’s close enough) I honestly didn’t think Phoenix would win the Pacific as they needed two huge wins and some help from other teams to do so, but they pulled it off with some very solid clutch hockey. Now that it’s come down to it, I’m going to stick with my prediction, especially since it’s looking like Toews is going to return to the lineup. I just can’t see Phoenix winning 4 of 7 with the Hawks at full-strength.


VICTORY STEAK FOR EVERYONE!!!

THE PICK….Hawks in five games.

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Comments
  1. bethaniekraft says:

    Funny & insightful blog and I especially like your title. That pic of Courtney Love is brutal though. Go Hawks!

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