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2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Red Wings Vs. Blackhawks Western Conference Semifinals Preview

Graham Jenkins |
May 14, 2013 | 2:23 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

It’s oddly fitting that the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings are facing off against each other in the playoffs the season before Detroit moves to the Eastern Conference. The Blackhawks would love to send the Red Wings out with a going-away present: a final Western Conference playoff elimination.

No. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 7 Detroit Red Wings

Season Series

Chicago won 4-0-0

Key Players

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews did not score against the Wild, but expect that to change against the Detroit Red Wings. (KristenJerkins/Creative Commons)
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews did not score against the Wild, but expect that to change against the Detroit Red Wings. (KristenJerkins/Creative Commons)

Chicago won all four games between these two teams during the regular season, with two of those wins coming courtesy of the shootout, and one of them in overtime. However, Chicago thrashed Detroit 7-1 on March 31, 2013, with all of its goals coming at even strength, and it would have been a 7-0 shutout had Detroit not scored a garbage-time goal with 33 seconds left in the game. 

In the playoffs, the Red Wings battled the Anaheim Ducks in a hard-fought seven-game series and fought off elimination twice after trailing the series, 3-2. Detroit won three of its games in overtime in that series, and played four overtime games in that series. A big problem for the Red Wings that persisted in this series was turnovers, and the Ducks made the Red Wings pay for coughing up the puck quite a few times. If Detroit continues to turn the puck over against the Blackhawks, it will be a long series for the Red Wings.

Chicago, on the other hand, took care of business against Minnesota, like it was expected to. Sure, people can argue that they did not face the toughest competition in goaltending in Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper, but they also didn’t allow Minnesota to generate much offense. Chicago did not rely on the power play to generate its offense, which was also true for them during the regular season. 

As was the case for the Wild last series, the Blackhawks are a much deeper team all around. What’s scary for Detroit is that Chicago did not get goals from Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane and still won the series in five games over the Wild. Sure, Patrick Kane assisted on five of Chicago’s goals, but it’s highly doubtful a player of his caliber will be held off the goal column of the scoresheet for two playoff series. Jonathan Toews had two assists against the Wild the entire series. Chicago didn’t even hit on all cylinders against Minnesota, and that’s something that will likely change against Detroit.

Detroit’s main point-producers were the usual suspects in Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, with Zetterberg leading his team with eight points (three goals, five assists) and Datsyuk right behind him with seven (two goals, five assists). They were expected to be the main offensive contributors in the last series, and they did not disappoint. They will likely continue to produce against the Blackhawks, but if Detroit wants to win this series, it will need its secondary guys to come out of nowhere and help out Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will look to pull off an upset of epic proportions. (Tom Gromak/Creative Commons)
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will look to pull off an upset of epic proportions. (Tom Gromak/Creative Commons)

On the topic of secondary scoring, Patrick Sharp led the Blackhawks with five goals against the Wild, and Bryan Bickell scored three goals himself. The Blackhawks also got three goals from Marian Hossa, and he’s tied for the team lead in points with Sharp with six. It’s unlikely Bickell will continue his goal-scoring tear, as his shooting percentage is an unsustainable 37.5 percent, but Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp can reasonably be called upon to provide offense for Chicago should Kane or Toews not score a goal this series. That’s not to suggest Detroit can’t do that either, as Johan Franzen will be a menace in front of the net and a weapon on the power play, and he scored three power play goals for the Red Wings against the Ducks. 

As far as goaltending is concerned, Chicago has the clear edge. Corey Crawford posted a 1.32 GAA, .950 save percentage performance against the Wild, not too far off his 1.94 GAA, .926 save percentage regular-season performance. Jimmy Howard, on the other hand, posted a 2.74 GAA, .911 save percentage against the Ducks, which was a bit of a slide from his 2.13 GAA, .923 save percentage performance during the regular season. 

In his career, Howard is not as good of a goaltender in the playoffs as he is during the regular season. Howard is a 2.36 GAA, .918 save percentage performer during the regular season, but a 2.65 GAA, .914 save percentage goaltender during the playoffs. 

Crawford, on the other hand, is a 2.40 GAA, .913 save percentage goalie during the regular season in his career, but—albeit with the heavy aid of the last series against the Wild—he is a 2.11 GAA, .922 save percentage performer during the playoffs.

With all of this in mind, the Blackhawks will take this series, but since it’s Red Wings-Blackhawks, the Red Wings will give them all they’ve got. They’ll manage to take a couple games, but their best won’t be enough.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6.

Reach Staff Writer Graham Jenkins here, or follow him on Twitter.



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