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Playoff Predictions: Calgary Flames vs Chicago Blackhawks

It is not hard to imagine that this years playoffs and the Blackhawks 1st round series could have been quite different if it were not for the Vancouver Canucks embarrasing the Blackhawks into re-evaluating how they were playing.

Certainly the return of Patrick Sharp and the defense finally getting healthy didn't hurt and neither did Nikolai Khabibulin's return to form but it has been a drastic turnaround from a team slumping looking destined to get bounced out of the playoffs first round to going 6-0-1 in April and 9-2-1 since March 22.

Opponent Overview

The Flames made the biggest free agent splash at the trade deadline and many people, (me included) thought this team had the right mix of players to make a real run. Well they may have all the ingredients but they cannot seem to find the recipe, Olli Jokinen has been a disappointment so far, Jarome Iginla has struggled at times, as has their goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

The pressure and expectation in Calgary is very real for a city that has been close before and the thought is that this roster is of contention calibre but the team has a recent history of faltering in the post season.

What to Expect from the Flames

The Flames are a physical team and will play the Blackhawks tough for two reasons: the first being that a young team is often surprised by the intensity in the playoffs, how many no-calls, the pressure, and either take retaliation penalties or just disappear. The second is the Blackhawks are a smaller skilled team and the consensus way to beat them is grind it out slow them down keep the skill guys in check.

*Note* The last couple of years this style has landed the Flames in penalty trouble more often than not as playing a tough style discipline is that much more important.

What to Expect from the Blackhawks

The Hawks are a skilled team and will try to open the game up from the back lead by offensive defenseman like Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell the Blackhawks will try to use their team speed and create odd man chances and capitalize; or create powerplay chances. Interesting to see how the Hawks react to the playoff atmosphere opponents have tried all season to slow the Hawks down with tough, physical play but the intesity this time will be a new experience.

Key Matchups

Olli Jokinen Vs Jonathan Toews

The two top line centre-man both playing in their first post season series will be asked to anchor the top line and centre first line power play units. Jonathan Toews has really come on of late whereas Olli has not but the slate is wiped clean. Personally I like Toews as in Juniour maybe no player before him has been asked to do more in pressure situations and succeeded.

Miika Kiprusoff vs Nikolai Khabibulin

The goaltending battle is always interesting and will be a real key to this series. The pressure is on Miika Kiprusoff who really does not have a viable back-up and comes into the series having played 60+ games this season. Khabby comes in fresh and healthy having platooned the position with Huet most of the year and is out to prove he has something left.

Experience vs Youth  

Almost every head-to-head match-up, you can think of in this one has the Flames and their experience against the youth and in-experience of the Blackhawks which one wins out will be an interesting subplot to this series.


The Blackhawks take this series in six games, the Flames do not have the team speed to keep the Hawks in check and I like Khabby over Kipper as 60+ games is just too many, the Flames saying Kipper is not tired is one thing and reality maybe another. Plus even without home ice and the six seed the Flames come in with all the pressure and expectation – it has broken them before and will again…

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In response to “Playoff Predictions: Calgary Flames vs Chicago Blackhawks”

  1. micah5 Apr 13 20099:02 am


    I may be wrong, but I'm ready to stick a fork in the Flames. I give them 5 games and they are out.

    1. Terry Shilton Apr 13 200910:59 am


      I don't disagree but had to give the veterans and Iggy the benefit of a game or two thus Chicago in six

  2. Alex Hamilton Apr 13 20099:43 am


    Agreeing with this, was about to say about the same in my blog. Hardest thing is deciding if the Flames will be able to win more than one game at this point….I'd love to be wrong though

    1. Terry Shilton Apr 13 200911:01 am


      Agreeing with this, was about to say about the same in my blog. Hardest thing is deciding if the Flames will be able to win more than one game at this point….I'd love to be wrong though

      Alex do you think the Flames made a mistake playing Kipper so much? To me it's like the wind is kind of out of this teams sail for some reason… either chemistry or confidence and I'm not sure which one

      1. Alex Hamilton Apr 13 200911:26 am


        working on my playoff preview…It's a lot of things, chemistry/confidence are two of the problems though.Unless Kipper turns it around for the playoffs they definitely made a mistake playing him too much though

  3. Rodney Apr 13 200911:25 pm


    Hi Guys,Thought you may like some perspective from the other side of the table. I'm a Flames fan and have seen this team go through many new faces and this year's team has got to be one of the best Calgary has had. They definately have the right mix to go deep into the Play-offs and they also have the ability to beat the best teams in the League, if they show up.One of the key reasons though for their recent slide is all of the injuries Calgary has sustained. Basically, the entire top 6 Defense line is injured along with some of their energy line guys which has really hurt Calgary as of late. For the last 4-5 games Calgary only dressed 3 forward lines and the Defense they dressed were all AHL players.I think Chicago has the upper hand in this series, but never count the Flames out. They have the skill to make pretty plays and they've got the grit to gring it out in corners and in front of the net. I think it's just a matter of whether or not they can get healthy again and get some of their key players back in the line-up. If they can get at least Phaneuf, Reghyr and Vandermeer back for the beginning of this round, then this series has the potential to go to seven games.I'll still give the contest to the Blackhawks though, but in seven games.

    1. Terry Shilton Apr 14 20097:47 am


      Excellent points,The Blackhawks stole the season series 4-0 and really don't believe even a healthy defense for Calgary can slow them down as speed wise they have the advantage.Many players in Chicago have implied that Calgary maybe the most overrated defensive team in the league.

  4. Ian Altenbaugh Apr 14 20097:27 am


    I can not see the Blackhawks winning this series. They are made up similarly to the 2006-07 Penguins (the group that made the playoffs for the first time after a layoff). There is no way a young player can prepare for the playoffs. Even if they admonish themselves statistically, I can't see them winning this series.This season the Flames are built for the playoffs while the Blackhawks are built to make the playoffs. The Hawks are going to look like deer in headlights for the first few games. Even if they manage to pull out and win this series, the physical punishment that Calgary will dish out will leave them limping into the second round. I predict Calgary winning in six.

    1. Terry Shilton Apr 14 20097:52 am


      Ian, I don't disagree that often young teams are not prepared for the difference in the level of play from regular season to playoffs. And the Penguins analogy is not a bad one but one thing that it leaves out was the quality of there opponent… Ottawa went to the cup that year.Calgary is surely not going.Plus the home ice and it's impact from Pittsburgh to Chicago is night and day & experienced goaltending vs a very young goalie in Marc Andre Fleury.I don't think Chicago comes out as “the deer in headlights” but do agree like playing Philly years ago sometimes even if you win the series you can lose the war in terms of punishment and it really reduces your chances of moving further along.

      1. Ian Altenbaugh Apr 15 20096:34 am


        Ottawa did go to the cup in 2006-07. They did have a good record going down the stretch as well. I don't really know what you are talking about with home ice as Chicago and Pitt have comparable records on home ice. The Penguins also have giant screens around the Arena where thousands of fans who couldn't get into the Arena congregate to watch the game. It's as insane as a Steelers playoff game. I am more or less just saying in my long winded way that the Blackhawks don't have squat for playoff experience. While they have been winning games down the stretch, their powerplay has been horrid. They have scored 3 for 39 on the man-advantage over the past ten games – an 8% conversion rate. On the other hand Calgary hasn't scored a single goal on the man-advantage over the last ten games and they had more chances. Both teams have had decent PKs over the last few weeks. I think the excitement over the last few months has ramped up to unrealistic expectations though. If they can manage to split the first four games, they have a chance of winning the series but young teams have a long and rich history of getting destroyed in their first playoffs. Making the playoffs and finishing with home-ice means the Blackhawks season has already been a rousing success. Everything else is just gravy.

  5. Dan Rakusan Apr 15 20096:41 am


    I'm with you Terry, Hawks in 6. I think Kiprussof plays WAY too many games, and since no goalie who has played over 56 games during the regular season (not named Roy or Brodeur) has won the Cup in the modern age (according to Don Cherry, so that is likely not true), I believe the Flames are the architects of their own demise…

  6. Terry Shilton Apr 15 20098:45 am


    To me it really is the pressure factor as well how often does a lower seeded team come into a playoff series, as the favorite… on the road!To me an underacheveing team with over inflated expectations equals an early exit.

    1. Rodney Apr 15 20099:09 am


      Well, I wouldn't say the Flames are an underachieving team. They were atop of the NW division and several points ahead of Chicago all season long up until the last 15 games of the season when they got hit by a big rash of Injuries. Even with 10 regulars out of the line-up they managed to almost win the divison and finished with the same number of Wins as Chicago and 6 points back. There may be inflated expectations, but these guys have the skill and size to get it done, even with a bunch of their regulars out of it, so don't count them out too early.

      1. Terry Shilton Apr 15 200910:50 am


        Well, I wouldn't say the Flames are an underachieving team. They were atop of the NW division and several points ahead of Chicago all season long up until the last 15 games of the season when they got hit by a big rash of Injuries. Even with 10 regulars out of the line-up they managed to almost win the divison and finished with the same number of Wins as Chicago and 6 points back. There may be inflated expectations, but these guys have the skill and size to get it done, even with a bunch of their regulars out of it, so don't count them out too early.

        Fair play, I guess it's just the instant contender badge, you look at a team like San Jose and they responded very well to similar injury problems, whereas with Calgary personally I am not a believer that they can go deep into the playoffs.Chicago is going into the series with the belief they will be able to just take advantage of Calgary at the back and that their defenseman are no where near quick enough to be a factor in open ice.I just can't see how Calgary can change this in time?

      2. Dan Rakusan Apr 15 200912:19 pm


        Well, I wouldn't say the Flames are an underachieving team. They were atop of the NW division and several points ahead of Chicago all season long up until the last 15 games of the season when they got hit by a big rash of Injuries. Even with 10 regulars out of the line-up they managed to almost win the divison and finished with the same number of Wins as Chicago and 6 points back. There may be inflated expectations, but these guys have the skill and size to get it done, even with a bunch of their regulars out of it, so don't count them out too early.

        The Flames aren't underachieving, they're simply realizing that they need a quality backup to spell-off Kipper periodically and not have him playing 76 games or whatever (a recipe for failure)… He's good, but not as good as everyone makes him out to be. They'd have made the playoffs with even a backup who plays about 15-20 games, and sadly, the Flames are more content to ride the lightning that is Kipper for most of the year. Mc – whatever – is a capable guy, but too young. I was surprised they didn't make a re-entry waiver claim on Dany Sabourin or something at least, since they'd still be in the cap predicament they're in if they had…. Silly management, silly coaching.Call it the big 2009 FLAMEOUT

  7. Terry Shilton Apr 15 200911:02 am


    Plus again no goalie that isn't HOF calibre has won the cup playing more than 56 games, Kipper is +20 with 76 games started.The tole that has taken on his body will definetly show up in this series…Last year Ryan Miller also started 76 games and went into the playoffs 15-20 pounds under his normal weight and had to resort to taking intervenous fluids between periods to try to stay near peak form…

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