Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings: NHL Playoff Preview and Prediction

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IMay 13, 2013

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings: NHL Playoff Preview and Prediction

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    The 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs are going to enter the semifinals this week, and the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings will square off in an Original Six matchup. Both teams have a storied history and talented rosters, but what team will have the edge in this series?

    Here is a preview and prediction for the highly anticipated Blackhawks vs. Red Wings second-round showdown.

Where They Stand After 1st Round

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    Chicago Blackhawks

    The Blackhawks defeated the Minnesota Wild in five games during the first round, and it was a series dominated by the Blackhawks.

    As the series went on, the Blackhawks' best players started stepping up their games, and that bodes well for them against the Detroit Red Wings. Corey Crawford has also gotten stronger, and he has shown that he has what it takes to carry the Blackhawks in the playoffs.

     

    Detroit Red Wings

    The Red Wings showed guts and determination by defeating the No. 2 seed Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs. Early on in the series, the Ducks appeared to have the edge, but the Red Wings kept returning serve. In order to win the series, the Red Wings won two straight games, and Henrik Zetterberg rose to the occasion to lead his team.

    Jimmy Howard also got better for the Red Wings as the series progressed, and so far he has proved that he deserved a contract extension.

Key Storylines

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    The biggest storyline of this series will involve the history of the two teams. It is almost guaranteed that there will be at least one reference to the multiple players—like Marian Hossa and Chris Chelios—that have played for both Original Six franchises, and there will be references to the great playoff series each team has had in the past.

    The last time these two teams met was during the 2009 Western Conference Final, and it was a series in which the Red Wings won in five games. The Red Wings went on to lose in the Stanley Cup Final, and the Blackhawks would go on to win the Stanley Cup Final next season.

    Another key storyline in this series will be a battle of the captains, as Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Toews are two of the top captains in the NHL today. Both players are integral two-way forward for their teams, they can help set the tone offensively and they are the leaders of their teams.

    Both captains had a slow start in each of their first-round series, and they will be looking to be key players for their clubs in the second round.

Players to Watch

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    Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks, RW

    Marian Hossa is an All-Star sniper who is one of the Blackhawks' top offensive players. He once played for the Detroit Red Wings, and he will look to play well against his former team.

    In the first round, Hossa scored three goals and had three assists for six points, so look for him to be a top threat for the Blackhawks against the Red Wings.

     

    Damien Brunner, Detroit Red Wings, RW

    The Red Wings have a number of different players who can contribute offensively, but Damien Brunner has the chance to be an impact player in this series. Brunner had five points against the Anaheim Ducks, including a game-winning goal in Game 4.

    The rookie forward had a solid regular season, and he is a player to keep an eye on during the second round.

     

    Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks, D

    Duncan Keith was the Blackhawks' top offensive defenseman in the first round, and he was second on the team in overall scoring. Keith is a quality defenseman who makes an impact when he is on the ice, and he is an extra threat the Red Wings will need to contain during this series.

     

    Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings, D

    Niklas Kronwall is one of the NHL's most punishing defenders in the NHL, and his physicality could help the Red Wings in this series. If he can continue to play a physical game that wears down the opposition, the Blackhawks' top players may be limited offensively in this series.

Goaltender Breakdown

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    Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

    In the first round, Crawford posted a 4-0-1 record with a 1.32 GAA and a .950 save percentage. He made 132 saves throughout the series, and many of them were quality saves. During the regular season, Crawford had a strong showing for the Blackhawks, and right now he is playing the best hockey of his career.

     

    Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings

    Jimmy Howard posted a 4-2-1 record with a 2.74 GAA and a .911 save percentage in the first round against the Anaheim Ducks. As the series went on, Howard's game got better, and he is going to need to keep his game elevated if the Red Wings are going to defeat the Blackhawks.

    Howard was a major reason why the Red Wings won their series, and he is going to have a tough matchup against Corey Crawford during this series.

Biggest Mismatch

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    The biggest mismatch in this series is special teams, and both teams have different success in each area.

    The Chicago Blackhawks have a power-play efficiency of 15.4 percent, 11th amongst playoff teams, but they have been perfect on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks have a ton of offensive weapons on their roster, and they may be able to capitalize on the Red Wings' penalty kill.

    This is because the Red Wings’ penalty-kill efficiency has a rating of 72 percent, but their power-play efficiency is 24 percent.

    Overall, each team will have a great strength going up against a great weakness, and that will be the biggest mismatch of this series.

Chicago Blackhawks Will Win If...

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    This series is the Chicago Blackhawks' to lose, and they will win this series if Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane score. In the first round, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa led the Blackhawks offense, and odds suggest that Kane and Toews won't be shut down for two consecutive series.

    While Kane had some great assists in the first round, he needs to put the puck in the back of the net. Toews also could do better than a lowly two assists, and he needs to step his game up.

    The Blackhawks will also win if Corey Crawford continues to play like he did in the first round. Although the Minnesota Wild didn't test him as much as the Detroit Red Wings should, he made saves at key moments that helped his team maintain momentum.

    By looking up and down the roster it is easy to see why the Blackhawks are being favored to win, but they will need their best players playing their best hockey to be successful in this series.

Detroit Red Wings Will Win If...

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    The Detroit Red Wings will win if Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk take control of the series from the get-go. Zetterberg had a solid offensive series, but most of his production came in the final games of the series.

    If Zetterberg and Datsyuk control play on both sides of the puck early, they can limit the Blackhawks offense and generate scoring chances for the Red Wings. The Red Wings will also win if their defense is physical against the Blackhawks' top forwards.

    The Blackhawks were able to run circles around the Minnesota Wild defense, but they won't be able to do that against the Red Wings. If the Red Wings defense remains solid, and Jimmy Howard keeps his game going, the Red Wings will have a chance to steal this series.

Prediction

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    The Chicago Blackhawks are the clear favorite in this series, but the Detroit Red Wings will push them to their limits in this series. The Blackhawks have an impressive roster that features a balance of offensive and defensive players, and they have one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL.

    The Red Wings are riding high off an impressive win against the No. 2 seed Anaheim Ducks, and with players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, they will test both the Blackhawks' forwards and defense when they are on the ice.

    Although the Red Wings appear to be getting hot at the right time, the Blackhawks have too much firepower to shut down. It should speak volumes that the Blackhawks won their first-round matchup in decisive fashion despite receiving zero goals from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

    This will be a very close series where a mistake could end up deciding a game, but the Chicago Blackhawks have the edge, and they will win this series in six games.