As I did with the 2 previous playoff series against Nashville and Vancouver respectively I will take a look at match ups and key concerns for the Chicago Blackhawks upcoming clash with the San Jose Sharks.
San Jose 51 Wins 20 Losses and 11 OTL for 113 pts.
Chicago 52 Wins 22 Losses and 8 OTL for 112pts.
Chicago had amassed 271 goals for and San Jose managed 264 goals for
Chicago defended well throughout the year allowing a mere 209 goals against while San Jose allowed a very good 215 goals against.
The Blackhawks took 3 of 4 games this year with one being a blowout victory and the other 3 games being 1 goal decisions with 2 games going to OT.
As one can see from the aforementioned but minimal statistic outlook that both clubs are extremely close in the overall scheme of things leading up to this battle of the top 2 seeds in the Western Conference.
Evgeni Nabokov seems to be a goaltender Chicago can definitely get to as the Hawks have managed in the past to score quite well against him but one can not overlook that he is a quality goaltender and can steal a game for him team from time to time. Nabby has played very well overall in his previous two series facing Colorado and Detroit but has yet to face a team that can bring 4 scoring lines at him and 3 lines that can score on a regular basis.
Antti Niemi is proving to all of the people saying “the Hawks have no goaltending” to be a completely inadequate and furthest from the truth type of statement. He has outplayed young stud Pekka Rinne in Nashville and the highly regarded Roberto Luongo in the previous series. Sure experience is one thing but in all honesty in these current playoffs there is not a plethora of goaltenders with an abundance of playoff experience anyways.
Tkon’s edge: Even
With Norris trophy candidate Duncan Keith seemingly back to his game now after a questionable series against Nashville things seem to be looking up for the Hawks defensive corp. Brent Seabrook has been outstanding contributing in all aspects of the game especially laying out some devastating hits on opposition forwards entering the Hawks zone. Brian Campbell is 100% and playing very well plus having that puck moving ability sure helps the offense and partner Nik Hjarmalsson has been as solid as he has ever been. The last defensive pair has been shot blocking machine Brent Sopel and speedy Jordan Hendry. The Hawks defense has never been better at this point and if somehow Kim Johnsson is able to return (doubtful) this once again would be the best defensive squad in the league.
The Sharks defense is lead by superstar Dan Boyle who is as good as it gets, while he is not overly strong defensively he is most definitely adequate enough to slow down opposing forwards. Swede Douglas Murray brings a nice physical presence along with aging and experienced Rob Blake . Jason Demers is a solid defenseman but does not bring a lot in the offensive or puck moving ability and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a similar type player who plays well in his own end seemingly but once again very little threat in the puck moving department. Kent Huskins is the last piece of the Sharks defensive end and many still wonder why he is in the mix still.
Tkon’s Edge: Blackhawks bar none
Chicago’s forwards are as deep as anyone in the league:
Eager, Bickell, and Colin Fraser are the other 3 forwards. (note: these are not the confirmed line combination’s)
What you see is what you get, 4 solid lines that can all score with 3 of those lines being a scoring threat every time on the ice. With the John Madden line it can be an excellent shut down line against the top line of the Sharks and the 4th line can skate with anyone and having a 20 goal scorer in Troy Brouwer on the 4th line shows the depth this team really has. Jonathan Toews is lighting up the league right now leading all players in the playoffs with 20 points and all this starting against a Nashville team who shut down the scoring of the Hawks in the first round.
Shark forwards are not to be overlooked:
Much like the Canucks the Sharks have one of the best forward lines in the league in the Joe Thornton line however the second scoring line especially in the likes of Joe Pavelski has been producing as much if not more then the top line of the Sharks. Throughout the regular season the Thornton line did most of the scoring for this club so they will need to revert back to that scoring if they hope to be successful in this series as the scoring depth of the Sharks is no where near the Hawks capabilities. If Chicago’s defense can’t handle the 2 scoring lines for San Jose well for obvious reasons this series could be short but if Chicago shuts them down like they did with the Canucks the forward lines for the Sharks are in for a frustrating series. The Sharks may lack in scoring depth but they do not lack in role players, Scott Nichol is one of the best shut down players in the league and Maholtra is a seasoned veteran who brings it every night. The Couture line may be overlooked by many but I would not ignore the fact that they can score too along with playing a shut down role.
Tkon’s edge: Chicago
Both teams seem to be clicking more on the powerplay of late with Chicago sitting at 21.6% and San Jose at 19.3 %. Both clubs are very able to light the lamp with the dynamic forwards each team possesses and this will be key in this series.
Penalty killing is yet another strength for both clubs as Chicago is killing penalties at a rate of 88.7% and the Sharks at 84.2%, both being very very good numbers. The only difference here is that the Hawks are one of the most dangerous teams in the league at scoring shorthanded as they have scored 3 times penalty killing while the Sharks have yet to get a short handed goal so far in this years playoffs.
A key in this series will be face-offs as for obvious reasons this has a lot to do with puck possession, the Sharks have a definite advantage here with their top 3 centerman all over 55%. Unreal statistic.
Tkon’s edge: Sharks
With the majority of the statistics and depth aiming in favour of the Blackhawks it’s hard not to like the chances for Chicago to take this series. However, one can take all the past performances and history’s of these two teams and break down every little stat and intangible that there is but as we have seen in the NHL playoffs so far anything can happen. Look at the East where the 7th and 8th seeds are now battling it out to see who goes to the cup final.
The most important issues in these playoffs overlooking ALL these aforementioned statistics and analysis is momentum and composure, whichever team can take care of those two intangibles better then the opposition then all other things should fall into place.
This should be a very fast paced high scoring series that I am sure will keep all fans on the edge of their seats.
I will keep my predictions going as someone wins in 7 (it’s worked so far albeit the game numbers were wrong but why change something that works )
Go Hawks !
About the Author
Written by Trent Kondo
An all around sports fan and has been a Chicago BlackHawks supporter longer then he can remember. Currently writes for Prosportsblogging.com on the Blackhawks and NHLHotstove.com on the Edmonton Oilers. (If you would like to email feel free to contact Trent at TKONHOCKEY@gmail.com )