Any questions concerning the Chicago Blackhawks' ability to carry over their immense regular-season success to the Stanley Cup Playoffs were answered with a dominant first-round performance against the Minnesota Wild.
Sure, the 'Hawks were expected to steamroll the eighth-seeded Wild, but when your only blemish in a postseason series is a tightly-fought loss in overtime, it's impressive—no matter the opponent.
Especially when your four wins are by a combined tally of 15-4.
Nevertheless, Chicago can't dwell on such an authoritative showing. It's only one-fourth of the way to its ultimate goal, and the Detroit Red Wings—fresh off an inspiring comeback against the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks—will be ready.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about the Blackhawks' second-round matchup.
Complete Schedule and TV Guide
Note: Schedule info courtesy of NHL.com
|Date||Visiting Team||Home Team||Time (ET)||Network|
|Wednesday, May 15||Detroit||Chicago||8 p.m.||NBCSN, CBC|
|Saturday, May 18||Detroit||Chicago||1 p.m.||NBC|
|Monday, May 20||Chicago||Detroit||7:30 p.m.||NBCSN|
|Wednesday, May 22||Chicago||Detroit||8 p.m.||NBCSN|
|*Saturday, May 25||Detroit||Chicago||TBD||TBD|
|*Monday, May 27||Chicago||Detroit||TBD||TBD|
|*Wednesday, May 29||Detroit||Chicago||TBD||TBD |
How the Blackhawks Got Here
In a word, defense.
En route to one of the most dominant regular seasons in NHL history (albeit in a shortened sample), the Blackhawks stifled opposing teams to a minuscule 2.02 goals per game—easily the best mark in the league.
The first round was more of the same, only, um, stifl-ier. In their 4-1 series win over the Wild, the 'Hawks allowed just 1.40 goals per game and were perfect in penalty kills despite being shorthanded 17 times. For comparison, no other team allowed less than two power-play goals.
A combination of limiting shots, rare contributions from the front end as well as the blue-line corps and world-class goaltender play by Corey Crawford simply has this suffocating defense at another level.
Taking On the Red Wings
Much like Chicago, Detroit prided itself on defense during the regular season, finishing fifth in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.29).
Against Anaheim, however, the Red Wings' looked inconsistent and gave up 3.00 goals per contest, while goalkeeper Jimmy Howard saw his save percentage dip down to .911.
Detroit was still able to advance, but for a team that will have trouble finding the back of the net (20th during the regular season in goals per game) against a stout Blackhawks defense, it will have to be much better around the blue line.
The Blackhawks swept Detroit in four regular-season games this year. One of those wins came via a 7-1 beatdown, but the other three all went to overtime and two went to a shootout.
As such, this series may be closer than you might originally think.
Nevertheless, Chicago's well-balanced, consistent squad will be far too much for the often unpredictable Red Wings.
Blackhawks in 5