The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings square off Monday night in Game 6 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Detroit can close out the 'Hawks with a win. Chicago is looking to force a Game 7 back in its building.
After nine games in the regular and postseason, each team knows what it takes to beat the other. We won't see many surprises. This game looks to go down like the others in this series. It may come down to which team is able to come out on top of these key matchups.
Zetterberg has been a thorn in the side of the Blackhawks' captain the entire series. Coach Joel Quenneville freed up Toews for most of Game 5 and Toews responded with his first goal of the playoffs.
Detroit will have the benefit of last line change Monday, so expect to see Zetterberg plastered to Toews as he was in the last two games at Joe Louis Arena. If Zetterberg can blanket his counterpart as he has earlier in the series, it will be tough for Chicago to win.
If the Red Wings captain forces a meltdown from Toews resembling his Game 4 performance, it spells real trouble for the Blackhawks. Toews needs to stay focused and win this battle.
The Blackhawks have been able to force a lot of turnovers out of Detroit's blueline corps, so perhaps the x-factor in this matchup is how effectively Chicago capitalizes on the giveaways they create in the Red Wings zone.
Niklas Kronwall is possibly still smarting from the hit laid on him by Bryan Bickell in the third period of Game 5. I'd expect Kronwall to play, but the Red Wings defense would be weakened if he isn't able to go.
Chicago will likely attempt to replicate the pressure they have put on the Detroit defense. If the Red Wings can stand the heat, it will be a big factor in Game 6.
A big factor in Chicago's 4-1 win in Game 5 was the fact that the dormant power play notched two goals in the second period.
The Blackhawks have power play goals in each of their wins in the series. They have no goals with the man advantage in Detroit's three wins.
These are two fairly disciplined teams, but the nature of this series has led to some roughing calls on both sides. The winner of the special teams battle may just be the difference.
The two goalies have both played excellent hockey in this series. Howard has a slight edge in that he has faced more shots and has the series only shutout in Game 4.
Crawford's numbers in this series: 2.02 goals against, .924 save percentage.
Howard's numbers in this series: 1.80 goals against, .945 save percentage.
The key for the Blackhawks is to bombard Howard with attempts. Chicago has over 40 shots in both of it's two wins.
Crawford, as the last line of defense on the PK unit, has stopped 28 of 29 shots while his team was shorthanded. Howard is 19 for 22 in this area.
The play in net is going to be huge again Monday night.
There is little doubt that Babcock has out-coached Quenneville so far in this series. Babcock has been able to neutralize Chicago's top players and forced the 'Hawks coach into shuffling his lineup.
Quenneville made the right moves in Game 5, changing his defensive pairings and keeping Zetterberg off of Toews for most of the game. Will he fare as well with Babcock having last change?
The moves the opposing coaches make will definitely have an impact on the final score of Game 6 Monday night.