Chicago struggled in their first round series against the Nashville Predators but hit their stride in the second round against Vancouver. The conference final series against San Jose was near perfect.
Destiny: After the miracle finish in game five against the Predators when Patrick Kane scored short-handed with seconds left to tie the game and Marion Hossa scored coming out of the penalty box in OT, you knew that the hockey gods were smiling on the Hawks.
Western Conference Style of Play: Granted, the Flyers play tough and have speed of their own, but the Hawks are used to skating hard for 60 minutes along side other speedy teams from the West. I doubt that the Flyers will be able to completely slow them down.
Too Young to Crack: Patrick Kane said the team was too young to be nervous during the playoffs. With Kane being 21 and Captain Jonathan Toews at 22, all they know to do is win.
Pronger vs. Byfuglien: Big Buff has frustrated Roberto Luongo and Evgeni Nabokov so Chris Pronger will have to keep him away from the less experienced Michael Leighton or he will cause problems for the Flyers.
Road Warriors: The Hawks have won their last seven road games going back to game four in the opening series. If they win the first two at home, it will be a short series.
Goaltending: Before the playoffs, goaltending was the Hawks big question mark but Antti Niemi has responded going 12-4 with two shutouts and a 2.33 goals against average. He is playing like a seasoned veteran after three solid rounds.
Explosive Offense: The Hawks have many weapons with Jonathan Toews the odds on favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy, Dustin Byfuglien scoring dirty goals in front of the net, and Patrick Kane, who I feel is the most dangerous player in the West with the puck on his stick. Toews is on a 13 game point streak and leads all playoff scorers with 26 points. The danger doesn’t stop there as all four lines can put the puck on net.
Defense: The Hawks top two pairings can match up with anyone in the league lead by Olympians Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Campbell, Sopel, and Hjalmarsson have also logged big minutes as the Hawks play deeper than the Flyers. No one has shown more heart than Duncan Keith who played after losing seven teeth.
Special Teams: All season long, the Hawks have been excellent on the penalty kill and rarely have to use it as they are a very disciplined team averaging 10.2 pims in the playoffs. Their power play has improved in the playoffs as they are scoring at a 22.6% clip.
X-Factor: On the Stanley Cup Finals losing teams the last two years, Marion Hossa may find renewed life against the Flyers. In his career, he has 8 goals and 14 assists in 16 games against Philadelphia. Could it be that he has played the wrong team the last two seasons?
Tomorrow, we will be back with our final predictions in a series that should provide fans with plenty of excitement.
AHL Finals Set...
The final match-up for the Calder Cup was set last night as the Texas Stars scored four unanswered goals to beat the Hamilton Bulldogs 4-2 at Copps Coliseum. Hamilton was ahead and seemed to be in control but Texas kept hanging close and finally went ahead and won the game.
The Bulldogs out played the Stars for most of the game and lead in the shot count 43-20. For the series, the Stars only lead for only 24:19 of the 446:11 total minutes.
The finals will pit the heavily favored Hershey Bears against the Stars and will not start for over a week. Here is the complete schedule:
2010 Calder Cup Finals (best-of-seven)
Game 1 – Thu., June 3 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., June 5 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Mon., June 7 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30
Game 4 – Wed., June 9 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30
*Game 5 – Fri., June 11 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30
*Game 6 – Mon., June 14 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 16 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern
In Preds Nation...
Before the Tweep-Up event at the Tin Roof on June 7, Slap Shot Radio is doing a live remote and Stanley Cup watch party at the Vandy/Midtown Pie in the Sky Pizza on Wednesday June 2nd from 5pm - 9:30pm to raise awareness and money for Youth Incorporated's Inline Hockey program. Their rink in Bellevue was destroyed by the flooding. We will be having a silent auction and donations that will go directly to the rebuild effort. Rebuilding a rink is an expensive proposition, especially for a non-profit like Youth Inc. Their inline hockey program really drives up participation in youth ice hockey in middle Tennessee and continues to make new fans for the NHL and most especially, the Predators. Pete Weber and Paul McCann will be on hand along with a lot of other Pred fans. make plans to attend. AJ at PMFF has another post on the event.
The Predators officially announced the signing of Swedish goalie Anders Lindback on Wednesday. David Boclair spoke with Paul Fenton, who indicated that the Preds will probably enter camp in the Fall with Mark Dekanich being given a chance at the back-up role behind Pekka Rinne. Jay Levin has much more on the goalie pipeline at Predators.com.
Jim Diamond has details about the Predator's Dancers tryouts at the Examiner. On a more serious note, he also gives his thoughts on the finals with a bold prediction.
Jeremy at Section303 has the story of why the Hawks-Flyers series is good for the NHL.
Chris Burton at OnTheForcheck has Five Reasons to Root for the Hawks. The survey shows that most Pred fans are indeed, pulling for Chicago.
Around the NHL...
The NHL combine continues. News has been sparse but can be found at the NHL blog.
More details are out about the NHL's shakedown of the Glendale city council in the pay $25 million or lose the team deadline last week.
From @SBJSBD: NHL and NHLPA renew deal w/ Bridgestone Tires for 5 years; keeps company as league's official tire and as title sponsor of Winter Classic.
Pierre LeBrun looks at 10 Conn Smythe candidates heading into the final.
Steve Lapore reports that Chicago's ratings were better than San Jose's during the four game sweep. He also checks out all 30 team's ranks on Google
Matt Reitz analyzes who the fans of the the 28 teams not in the finals are pulling for.
Michelle Kenneth shows another side of Zack Parise as he encourages kids to read.
A very slow news day yesterday as the NHL replacing 30,000 disposable bags at the NHL Store in NY and at the two SCF arena shops was big news.
Odds and Ends...
SBD asks the obvious question, Will Meadowlands Super Bowl Lead To More Cold-Weather Sites? The Nashville Sports Authority ran a survey this week about Music City hosting a Super Bowl. Folks love visiting Nashville so why not LP Field.
If you are trained to be charismatic is it really charisma? I would think it would lead to some really poor acting.
In Canada, $930 million doesn't go as far as it used to.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass