It is all set.
During the regular season Chicago went 1-2-1 against the Coyotes, but none of that matters once game one starts on April 12.
It took until the last day of the regular season to find out whom the Hawks would play. It was between Nashville, San Jose, LA or Phoenix. But since the Hawks won their last game against Detroit in a shootout (by an unbelievable goal by Patrick Kane) they solidified the sixth spot. Phoenix won their last game, which gave them the third seed.
So, here we are, Chicago versus Phoenix.
This will mark the first time the two teams have faced each other in the post season. They seem to be very different in style, the Hawks being the offensive juggernaut and the Coyotes being the defensive team. Chicago definitely has the bigger names and more fire power but the Coyotes seem to have the edge in goal as of now.
Mike Smith (38-18-10) has a save percentage of .930 and goals allowed a game of 2.21, he also has eight shut outs. Three of those shut outs came in consecutive games.
He has pretty good numbers, but lacks playoff experience.
The Coyotes are also on a five game winning streak heading into the playoffs.
Chicago’s goaltender, Corey Crawford, is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. He posted no shut outs (Crawford and Emery both failed to get shut outs, making Chicago the only team in the league this year to have zero shut outs) and his numbers are on the lower side of average. But the defense in front of him for the first half of the season was not at it’s best either.
Crawford has played better in the last month and a half, the Hawks need him to play consistent and stop the shots he needs to.
The Chicago Blackhawks are 12-2-4 in their last 18 games of the season, and that is all without Captain Jonathan Toews, and Duncan Keith for five games (suspension).
The question facing the Hawks is Toews; will he play?
Toews has been cleared for contact and was practicing with the team. Toews and Coach Q are very confident he will suit up and play in game one, which could be series changing.
With names like Toews, Kane, Sharp, Hossa, Bolland and Stalberg, it might prove to be too much for the Yotes.
The sixth seeded Hawks have more points then the Coyotes, but since Phoenix captured their division, they claim the third seed. So, the Coyotes will have home ice advantage if the series were to go to a game seven.
But, it is well known that the Coyotes do not have a strong following. During the regular season, there are usually more Hawks fans in the crowd in Glendale. It is pretty much a guarantee that Chicago fans will make the trip to support their team, so it could pretty much be like a home game for the Hawks.
Also, Phoenix does not have a very good home record, which can help the Hawks out.
This series could go either way, but unless Mike Smith stands on his head for the entire series and Crawford has a huge meltdown, Chicago should be able to advance to the second round, which, if everything goes right, means another round with the Vancouver Canucks.
The first four games are Thursday, April 12, Saturday, April 14 in Phoenix and April 17 and 19 in Chicago.
My prediction: Blackhawks in 6 Games