Hawks-Wings Series Preview

This is a match up that very few saw happening a few weeks ago but a very welcomed match up since the upcoming re-alignment will put an end to this rivalry. Let’s be honest for a moment, this isn’t the deepest or most talented team or even the most experience team that Detroit has put on the ice over the last 20+ years but the growth that they’ve shown over the last month has been very impressive.

Just a few short weeks ago, the Red Wings were being inserted into the conversation about the draft lottery, not about making a run in the playoffs. Yet here they are, one of the final 8 teams to remain in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and they are coming off an impressive series win against the #2 Anaheim Ducks. They’ve managed to go further into the playoffs than the 2012 Red Wings, a team that put together a league record 23 game home winning streak. The Red Wings have come a long way but now, they face an enormous task, the rival Chicago Blackhawks.

It’s no surprise that the President’s Trophy winning Chicago Blackhawks are still around. They are a team loaded with guys that know how to score, defensemen that know how to minimize the opposition’s opportunities and a goalie that cleans up after those rare mistakes are made.

Guys to Watch in This Series

Marian Hossa – This one is kind of obvious. The main story here is that Marian Hossa was once a member of the Detroit Red Wings and was on that Red Wings team that knocked out the Blackhawks back in 2009, the last time these two teams met in the post-season. He’s an important member of the Blackhawks offense and I certainly believe things would have played out differently for Chicago had Raffi Torres never made that hit last year. Hossa had 3 goals and 3 assists in 5 games against the Wild in round 1 and you can bet he’s not finished putting pucks in the net.

Duncan Keith – He played a big role in their Stanley Cup victory back in 2010 and in round 1 against the Wild, he seemed to return to that level. He had a goal, 5 points and posted a plus 5 which led all Hawks D-men for the series. I don’t really seem him taking a step backwards in this series.

Damien Brunner – You could easily put names like Datsyuk and Zetterberg right here but this is the type of series where the unexpected need to step up. I guess Brunner, coming off a series where he had 5 points and a GWG in Game 4 wouldn’t be classified as “unexpected” at this point but he is a rookie and the pressures of the Semi-Finals isn’t something he’s experienced just yet.

Niklas Kronwall – This guy just doesn’t get as much press he deserves. There have been a number of guys that have come and gone since Scott Stevens that always get the “he can make game changing hits like Scott Stevens did” label but isn’t that exactly what Niklas Kronwall does time and time again? If you’re going to stop guys like Hossa, Kane, Toews, and Sharp (my god the list goes on and on) you’re going to need a guy that can lay down the big hits.

Special Teams

This could be the big story in this series. You can’t get much better than the 100% success rate on the PK that they accomplished against the Wild. However, for a team with so much offensively, the power play didn’t do a lot to thrill anyone.  Detroit’s PP unit scored 6 goals against the Ducks in 7 games but 3 of those PP goals came in Game 2. The Wing’s PK looked shaky at times so the Wings certainly have a lot to work on.

So Who Wins?

As with any and every series it comes down to the man between the pipes. If Crawford can continue to play at the level he did in round one, it will be hard to bet against him. For Detroit to steal this series (yes I said steal…) Jimmy Howard has to be fantastic and the Detroit defense will need to follow suit and really limit the Blackhawks chances but Chicago looks to be a very healthy team, which will make it that much harder for Detroit.

Each team needs to limit the mistakes because a mistake could cost you the game in this series and one game could make all the difference. It won’t be a cake walk like round 1 was for Chicago but I say they pull this out in six.