2009 NHL Conference Finals: Series Previews

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IMay 16, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 11:  (L-R) Niklas Hjalmarsson #4, Troy Brouwer #22, Patrick Kane #88 and Brian Campbell #51 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate after Kane scored his second goal of the game in the third period against the Vancouver Canucks during Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinal Round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 11, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. Kane went on to record a hat trick in the Blackhawks' 7-5 victory.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The time has come. The Conference Finals are set, and we have a couple of great series on our hands.

In the West, in a rematch of this year's Winter Classic, four-seed Chicago will face off against division rival second-seed Detroit in a what is sure to be a classic battle. The Blackhawks' league-best top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp is sure to be terrific, but can they beat off the Wings sensational depth of scorers?

In the East, the Penguins led by league superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will see this year's cinderella story, the Carolina Hurricanes, led by goaltender Cam Ward. Will the clock finally strike midnight on the Canes?

Mark Jones' 2009 NHL Conference Finals previews follows...

Western Conference Finals

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(4) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (2) Detroit Red Wings

The Blackhawks enter this series coming off a terrific 7-5 victory in Game Six against Vancouver, in which a hat trick by Patrick Kane launched the Hawks into this series. However, their opponents, the Detroit Red Wings, are the defending Stanley Cup champions and show no signs of slowing down.

The play of each team's forwards will certainly be the crucial stat that determines the winner in this series. Chicago boasts an excellent line of Jonathan Toews, who has four goals and 10 points already, Patrick Kane, who has eight goals and 12 points, and Patrick Sharp, who has five goals and nine points. Also notable is second-liner Martin Havlat, who has a team-leading 13 points in these playoffs despite his old age.

However, the Detroit Red Wings may have one of the best rosters of this decade, or at least the deepest. 15 Red Wings players already have at least one goal or four points in these playoffs, with Johan Franzen leading the pack with 8 G-7 A-15 PTS, Also, only Kirk Maltby and Chris Chelios have negative +/- ratings in the 2009 playoffs for the Wings; out of 22 players!

On defense, though, the Red Wings dominate completely. Defenseman Niklas Lidstrom is third on the team in points this playoffs, and Stuart, Kronwall, Rafalski, and Ericsson have also found the back of the net at least once for Detroit.

Finally, the goaltending advantage is tilted towards Detroit. Aging Chris Osgood has made countless spectacular saves, as well as posting a 91.2 percent save percentage and a 2.02 GAA. For the Blackhawks, Nikolai Khalibulin also emerged as a top-10 goalie. However, his save percentage is below 90 percent (how horrific...then again, I'm used to Cam Ward...) and his GAA is 2.76.

It's actually amazing to me the Blackhawks made it this far. Easy win for the defending Cup champion Red Wings.

Blackhawks will win if...

  1. Khahibulin suddenly undergoes drastic improvements in goal.
  2. Their top line can outscore the Red Wings' top line.
  3. Martin Havlat continues to be a huge asset for them.
  4. Defense becomes a factor in the their scoring.

Red Wings will win if...

  1. They keep doing what they're doing.
  2. Chris Osgood keeps up his terrific play.
  3. Khahibulin doesn't improve for the Hawks.

Game-by-Game Predictions

Game One...Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 6...Detroit leads 1-0

Game Two...Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 5...Detroit leads 2-0

Game Three...Red Wings 3, Blackhawks 4 (OT)....Detroit leads 2-1

Game Four....Red Wings 3, Blackhawks 2....Detroit leads 3-1

Game Five....Blackhawks 1, Red Wings 4

Total Goals Scored: 34

Series Pick: Detroit in five games

Eastern Conference Finals

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (4) Pittsburgh Penguins

For analysis, click here for my extensive, 1,300+ word preview article on this series.

Hurricanes will win if...

  1. Cam Ward continues to be stellar in goal.
  2. The powerplay gets going.
  3. Eric Cole, Tuomo Ruutu, and Ray Whitney get into the scoring.
  4. The defensive pairing of Seidenberg and Pitkanen find the back of the net a few times.
  5. Jordan Staal continues to struggle for the Pens.

Penguins will win if...

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury can equal how Brodeur or Thomas played.
  2. Jordan Staal breaks out of his slump.
  3. The Penguins figure out Cam Ward's few weaknesses.
  4. The Penguins can net some powerplay goals.
  5. Jussi Jokinen cools down for the Hurricanes.

Game-By-Game Prediction

Game One...Hurricanes 2, Penguins 4...PIT leads 1-0

Game Two...Hurricanes 4, Penguins 3 (OT)...series tied, 1-1

Game Three...Penguins 2, Hurricanes 4....CAR leads 2-1

Game Four...Penguins 3, Hurricanes 2...series tied, 2-2

Game Five...Hurricanes 5, Penguins 3...CAR leads, 3-2

Game Six...Penguins 0, Hurricanes 3

Totals Goals Scored: 35

Series Prediction: Carolina Hurricanes win in six games


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