Bring on Lord Stanley
May 23, 2010 1 Comment
Today the Chicago Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks with a come from behind 4-2 victory. Throughout the series the Sharks could not match the Hawks’ energy, speed, and talent. This series all but proves that the Chicago Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL. Is there any way that the Flyers or Canadians could give the Hawks a run for their money in the Stanley Cup Final?
To put it simply, no.
First of all, the Hawks knocked off a very good Sharks team that has consistently been at the top of the Western Conference for a while now. They also beat a Canucks team, with not too much difficulty, that was the arguably the best team in the second half of the season. Although, I guess it is a little odd that the team that the Blackhawks had the most trouble with was the Nashville Predators. But it seems their struggles in Round 1 were due to Nashville’s defensive style of play, as well as Chicago’s lack of intensity for much of that series. The only thing that’s going to stop Chicago is themselves.
I think that Chicago is the most talented team in the NHL, and with their talented group having some playoff experience under their belt the idea that this team is too young is a thing of the past. When you go through the Hawks lineup there are no glaring weaknesses. They are strong from the top down. The fact that the Toews, Byfuglien, and Kane line has been beast is not the only reason to fear these Hawks. They also have guys like Versteeg, Sharp, and Hossa (even though he hasn’t played all that well). Not to mention the one best checking lines in the league led by Dave Bolland, who has come up with some big goals throughout the playoffs. Furthermore, the much publicized top defensive pairing of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith is also complemented by the smooth skating Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Brent Sopel. Add on some recent stellar goaltending from the inconsistent Antti Niemi and I don’t think describing this team as solid does it justice. This team is scary good.
On the other side of the table in the Eastern Conference, the potential matchup of the Habs or the Flyers does not provide the Hawks with any challenge whatsoever. First of all the Canadians have been outplayed throughout the playoffs and have squeaked through the #1 seed Capitals and Crosby led Penguins with some timely goals, luck, and superman goaltending from Jaroslav Halak. The Canadians lack of depth up front and on the back end especially with the injury to Andrei Markov appears to have finally caught up to them. If they do end up coming back once again the Canadians will be too tired to even have a shot at competing with the superior Blackhawks.
It’s not like the Flyers have had an easy road during these playoffs. They had to come back from an almost impossible 3-0 hole against the Bruins. However, if they can close out the Canadians in 5 they might be able to bring up enough energy to at least give the Hawks a series. The main problem that I see with the Flyers is that their back end can not match the speed and skill of Chicago’s forwards. Although Chris Pronger has had a sort of resurgence and is still playing major minutes (31:07 last night) he is not the same guy that he used to be and is not quick enough to keep up. With the return of Jeff Carter, the Flyers are fairly strong up front, but again the Blackhawks do have a great checking line and back end to match that. The only thing that the Blackhawks will have a problem with is the Flyers toughness. I felt that in the Vancouver-Chicago series, the choice of the Canucks not physically engaging the Blackhawks allowed them to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted knowing that there would be no consequences to doing things such as driving hard to the net. The Flyers could upset the mentality of the Hawks with their hard hitting and toughness. However, ultimately toughness isn’t going to win you hockey games and the Hawks will come out on top.
Blackhawk fans have waited a long time for their team to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals, and it looks as though nothing is going to stop them from hoisting Lord Stanley.
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