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Go West

April 13, 2011


A much younger Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Truth is, I write primarily about the Bruins and the Eastern Conference because it is familiar, it is home. But I live in Chicago now, and the Blackhawks reign supreme. After just squeaking into the playoffs after the Wild beat the Stars over the weekend, it’s unclear what the Blackhawks will be capable of in the post-season. But tonight they will face the Canucks tonight in Vancouver as game one kicks off. The Canucks are the Stanley Cup favorite, and the Hawks are the reigning champs–it couldn’t be a more perfect match-up.

Back to those expectations for the Hawks. The grit and endurance required to reach the Finals cannot be underestimated. They’ve got it. But they’re not quite as deep this season, just on account of the trades of last summer and the injuries suffered this season. Perhaps there was a valuable lesson learned this weekend though, namely that riding high on the victory of last June isn’t enough, that it makes them vulnerable. With Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell, anything is still possible, in theory.  Or is it?

Three things to look for in this series:

DEPTH

The Canucks are as deep as any team in the league and roll out four solid lines and three solid defensive pairings, unlike the Blackhawks, who are little shakier in their lower lines and pairings. Those lower pairings will hurt them and lead to a strange mismatch.

GOALTENDING

Roberto Luongo. He took Team Canada to a gold medal, but yes, maybe he cracks under pressure. But he’s a world-class goaltender. Corey Schneider is also there. Corey Crawford? Yes, he may have been consider Calder-worthy, but the truth in his ascension, the plotline there, it most revolves around the fact Marty Turco didn’t turn out to be the top-flight starter he was expected to be. Crawford is in his rookie season and is young, which seems to be an asset. But he’s also been played heavily in the home-stretch and I’d question his durability. He also seems easily rattled and is able to let in softer goals in quick succession. Hands down, the Canucks have a better tandem. The Hawks should be on notice.

DESIRE TO WIN

It’s their 40th anniversary season, the entire city is behind them and they’re the Presidents Trophy winner. Those there’s debate whether being the team with the highest points total is more than a blessing than a curse, and whether burning out during the regular season is a real risk, but the same token the ability to be dominant, especially in the fierce Western Conference, is something that needs to be accounted for. Maybe the pressure will go to the Canucks, maybe the underdog Hawks will have a chip on their shoulder. But the fact of the matter is that the Canucks have seemingly everything on their side in terms of momentum this season.

Only time will tell.

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