Series preview: Chicago Blackhawks (1) vs. Detroit Red Wings (7)

The Blackhawks have a balanced scoring attack.

STRENGTHS

Blackhawks

They have a balanced scoring attack.

Of the 13 forwards who dressed in the first round, 11 had at least a point. But what’s amazing is that the team’s top two players, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, didn’t have a goal, though they had a combined 32 shots.

But the Blackhawks got five from Patrick Sharp, three from Marian Hossa, three from Bryan Bickell, two from fourth-liners Michael Frolik and a series winner from Marcus Kruger.

Red Wings

Two of the better two-way players in the game, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, give the Red Wings a formidable 1-2 punch on their first line (with Justin Abdelkader as their third).

On paper, the veteran line of Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Daniel Cleary should have been better than it was in the first round, and the third line of Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Damien Brunner has the potential to be better.

They’ll need it. During the regular season, the Blackhawks won the season series 4-0-0 and outscored the Red Wings 14-5.

WEAKNESSES

Blackhawks

Inexplicably, their play with the man advantage.

With Chicago’s firepower, you’d think it’d have one of the league’s better power plays.

But during the regular season it was only 19th at 16.7 per cent, and in the first round it was 11th, successful in only two of 13 chances. It’d help if Toews and Kane got the odd goal.

On the other hand, the Blackhawks were perfect at killing penalties in the first round.

Red Wings

Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson are solid veterans on an otherwise young defence — in particular Brendan Smith (24), Jakub Kindl (26), and Brian Lashoff (22) — that will be tested by Chicago’s forwards.

There’s also not much bench strength in journeyman Carlo Colaiacovo, who dressed for the final two games of the first round, and Ian White, who didn’t play at all.

For the Blackhawks to win

They have so much offensive power that the pressure will be on Corey Crawford to deliver another big series.

Ray Emery is expected back but will sit as backup, so Crawford won’t have to worry about losing his spot.

In the first round, Crawford led the league with a goals-against average of 1.32 and was tied for second in save percentage at .950.

Again, it’d be nice if Towes and Kane chipped in.

For the Red Wings to win

They’re going to need a big series from Jimmy Howard. He did win the first round, but his performance was only middling: A goals-against average of 2.74 and a save percentage of .911.

If the young defencemen in front of him succumb to Chicago’s pressure, it could be a short series for the Red Wings.

Coach Mike Babcock used all his skills to get the Red Wings into the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive year and then into the second round (something he has done in six of the last seven years).

He’ll need to turn it up a notch here.

What do you think? Leave a comment