NHL Western Conference Final: Sharks Vs Blackhawks Preview & Prediction

Lion's Den U's TheCoach@@LDUtheCoachCorrespondent IMay 12, 2010

San Jose Sharks


Chicago Blackhawks

Season Series: Chicago 3-1

** Click Here For A Preview and Prediction For The Eastern Conference Final: Montreal Canadiens vs Philadelphia Flyers **

WOW! The San Jose Sharks are for real and you best believe knocking off the two-time defending Western Conference Champions proves it. In round one, the Sharks didn’t quite look like themselves but they were still able to knock off the Avalanche in six games.

With the problems, i’m assuming this is why 51% of people who read my prediction (240+ votes) picked the Red Wings to beat the Sharks in six. Out of 467 people, fifty-nine people picked the Sharks in six, while only eight picked them to win in the amount of game it took (five). Was San Jose over Detroit an upset? Hmm.

The Sharks got passed Colorado in a stream of close games early in the series and the way they did it had nothing to do with the big three but it was all Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi… the new big three. Everyone everywhere knew if the Sharks played the same way against the Red Wings, they’re season would be all but over.

The problem for Detroit was when I say ‘everyone knew’… that included San Jose’s team. The Sharks big three stepped up against the Red Wings and put up more goals than they scored (one) in the Colorado series but the Sharks were again lead by the new big three. With Pavelski in front and Clowe and Setoguchi not too far behind, add Heatley, Thorton and Marleau if they finally play as consistently as expected and there is no better team in the NHL than the San Jose Sharks. 

On top of the stellar offensive play, the defence has been great and in net, Evgeni Nabokov has been good enough to earn his team the ‘W’ in this years playoffs and all season long the Sharks have shown why they are one of the best, if not the best team in the NHL. They may have started slow, but take note, they’ve heated up.

You’ve got to expect that this is going to be one HELL of a match-up and as a hockey fan, if you aren’t excited for this series… find a broom and go curling because it doesn’t get much better than this. This could be a better series than the Stanley Cup dependent on which team moves on in the Eastern Conference.

The Sharks looked phenomenal in round two after starting slow against the Avalanche and must have known they’d have to do the little things night-in-night-out that are going to win hockey games and two what no one have done in the Western Conference in over two years… make Detroit they ‘Dead Wings’.

They certainly did everything needed to knock off Detroit but as much as all the headlines have turned to Pavelski and company, the most important aspect of NHL playoff hockey might just be behind the shadows of his team stellar offence.

Evgeni Nabakov has been good but no one has even noticed because his team is getting the job done up front before the Sharks can fall behind themselves. He isn’t facing 40-50 shots per game and doesn’t have to stand on his head like other goalies through-out the league (google Jaroslav Halak).

Against Detroit, the Sharks stormed out and took the first game of the series shocking everyone with three goals in 79 seconds and never looked back. Game two, Joe Pavelski was at it again (he dominated game one as well) but finally the other Joe (Thornton… remember him?) scored a goal and helpped the Sharks go up 2-0 in the series. When the series traveled to Detroit, the momentum certainly didn’t, at least for game three, as the Sharks won yet again but game four was much different.

I’m not sure if the Red Wings were just so pissed off they were going to get swept on their home ice that they played amazing, or if San Jose just sat back being up three-nil but either way, Detroit dominated the entire game winning 7-1.

Game five back in San Jose was a hard fought battle but in the end the right team won (2-1 San Jose) and finally the Sharks have made people forget about their past playoff woes… for now…

The Chicago Blackhawks in recent years have seemed to have problems getting past the Detroit Red Wings and it has not only haunted the organization but the fan base just as much.

Well, the Red Wings have already been knocked out via the Sharks but it may truly be more of a daunting task facing San Jose, who took out the Blackhawks arch-nemesis and rather easily at that. Don’t be so sure though, these Blackhawks in the past years have improved drastically (more than any other team in the NHL) and have what it takes to win the Western Conference.

First off, I admit I was wrong about the Chicago-Vancouver Series. I thought Luongo would be the difference maker this year, and if you want to see what the difference was in the series, take a look at how many goals Luongo allowed in their four losses… Brutal!

Don’t blame Vancouver’s goal-tending entirely as they were playing the most talented team in the NHL, hand down. In game one, it looked at is my prediction would pull through as the Canucks dominated at the United Centre with a 5-1 victory and at the start of game two, when Vancouver pulled ahead 2-0 quickly, I figured Vancouver would be making their way to the Western Conference Finals… and boy, was I wrong.

In the final two periods of the second game, it was all Chicago as they came back and won 4-2. They carried the momentum back to Vancouver and made Canucks fans hate Chicago even more than they already do for last years spanking. In games three and four and stole both.

Games three and four were merely a show-case of how talented the Blackhawks young team is and no matter who the opposing goalie is, they’ll score. Game four was no different as their explosive offence put up seven goals to take a 3-1 series lead and left Roberto Luongo pull up his jock-strap.

Back in Chicago, the Canucks weren’t about to loose four-straight for the first time this year and pulled out a 4-1 victory. Game six in Vancouver was different as Vancouver simply couldn’t win on their home ice and Chicago moved on.

It’s undeniable that the Blackhawks have a young, quick and talented squad who in the last few years has gained the experience needed to make a deep playoff run. Must feel good for Chicago fans who haven’t had much to cheer about since the days of Roenick and Belfour.

The 2010 Blackhawks (I think) are better than the team of the early 90’s who lost the Stanley Cup to the Penguins and call me crazy but you might just see a repeat of the 1991-92′ Stanley Cup… just saying. In the first two rounds, Chicago has relied on the play of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa and to say the least, they have went above and beyond what the organization and fans expected out of them.

Other forwards like Bolland, Versteeg, Kopecky and Byfuglien have also turned it up a notch leaving other Western Conference contenders in the rear-view mirror. Even if their offensive juggernaut offence isn’t clicking one night, the Blackhawks can rely on questionable the best defence in the NHL today.

Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell, Niklas Hjalmarrsson, the list goes on and Chicago has put themselves in the position they’re in because of phenomenal play in both their own as well as the other teams end. Chrisobal Huet was supposed to be the goalie that the Hawks’ could rely on but we all know what has happened there. Huet Out, Antti Niemi in.

Niemi has played well, but much like San Jose, he hasn’t had to stand on his head yet. If Pavelski and Clowe continue to play great for San Jose and the Sharks big three turns it up even more, it’s going to be hard for Niemi and his defence to keep Chicago in the game but with all the offensive fire-power I’ve already listed, not only is it possible for either team to take the series, but this series is going to be incredible to watch.

Something to keep in mind, Chicago outscored San Jose 17-11 in the four games this season.


* For the original article, click here *


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