The Blackhawks won Monday night, ending the series with Calgary with a 4-2 record. The Blackhawks have figured out how to play in the playoffs. I have a few reasons to be hopeful and some reasons to fear our next opponent, Vancouver.
Reasons to be hopeful
1. The Blackhawks have stepped up to the learning curve. Ever since the first game, the Blackhawks have been picking up the way that playoff games are played. The first period and a half of that game showed the Blackhawks' inexperience. They looked sloppy and were simply dominated and intimidated by the Flames. However, in the second half of the game they turned things around. Once again, after winning the first two games, the Blackhawks lost two in Calgary, and they turned it on once more. Games 5 and 6 proved Chicago's might, winning 5-1 and 4-1, respectively.
2. Defensemen are scoring.
The Blackhawks first goal in these playoffs was from Cam Barker. In fact, Barker scored 3 goals in this series. Brent Seabrook and Brian Campbell each had a tally in this series as well. Scoring defensemen take a lot of pressure off the forwards and may even catch goalies off guard.
3. Nikolai is sick.
And I don't mean physically. I mean he's a monster. He stopped 43 shots on Monday to lead his team to a victory in a game that they easily could have lost had he not been on top of his games. He continues to make saves that he has no business making, and his amazing play not only fuels the rest of the team to try harder, but it also keeps them from having to put huge numbers on the board to win.
Reasons to wet myself
1. Roberto Luongo
He's sick as well. He's actually utterly ridiculous. Words really can't describe his level of play, but maybe some stats can help you understand it a little. He has a 2.34 GAA (goals against average) and a 92 SV% (save percentage). Their first matchup in these playoffs were the Blues. In four games, the Blues were only able to sneak 5 goals past him, and that was out of 131 shots. Want me to do the math? Okay, I will. That's a 96 SV% for the series. Oops, I just crapped my pants, I'll be right back to finish the rest of this post.
2. We split the series with them in the regular season.
You might say, "They split the series, that means the Blackhawks won just as many games." Yes, this is true. However, the Blackhawks won the first two games and the more recent games went to Vancouver. Not to mention, the last game we played against them was an embarrassing 4-0 routing of the Blackhawks. Also, one of the games we beat them was against Curtis Sanford in net, not Luongo. Now that split series doesn't seem too even anymore, does it?
3. They can score.
Mats Sundin was a pretty important addition to their team after they lost Markus Naslund. Also, any significant discussion of the Canucks' strengths has to include the Sedin brothers, Henrik and Daniel. They are simply electric. They are in each others minds and are a sick duo.
TWO THINGS THAT COULD GO EITHER WAY
The Canucks swept their series and were done with the first round earlier than most teams. This means that they've had time to rest up and heal up. This also means that they've had the opportunity to get cold. Think about it. They haven't had this long of a break from competitive hockey since the All-Star break. Hopefully, the latter is true and not the former.The Blackhawks are the youngest team in the league. Young guys recover faster and are generally healthier (knock on wood). Although it may be irrelevant to the point I'm making--this also means they can keep the guys they have for a while. However, with youth comes inexperience. Many of the guys are in their first playoff appearance. As the playoffs roll on and the teams get tougher, the Blackhawks are going to have to get experience quickly.
We'll see what happens tomorrow