The Chicago Blackhawks are looking to join the San Jose Sharks in the next round, after their game tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.
Sharks win in 5 and are moving on
The Sharks defeated the defending Western Conference champion Detroit Red Wings last night, 2-1 and in doing so, won the series 4-1. Detroit becomes just another victim, to not overcome a 3-0 series deficit.
The Sharks won the first-four games of the series, all by a score of 4-3, with the third game going to overtime. Detroit came out powered by Johan Franzen in game 4 and won the game 7-1. After Franzen’s four-goal performance, it looked like the Red Wings had built some much needed momentum heading into game 5.
It wasn’t meant to be for Detroit and the Sharks will now be playing in their second Conference Finals in team history; the Sharks last appearance was in the 2003-04 season, they lost the series to the Calgary Flames, 2-4.
Coming into this semifinal round, the Sharks had been 17-30 in eight career semifinal series. After this year, the Sharks can now add an important four more victories to the win column, making them 21-31 in nine series.
This Shark’s team has shown repeatedly that they aren’t concerned with where the team has been, but where they are headed and for right now, that is the Western Conference Finals to face either Chicago or the Vancouver Canucks.
With Detroit losing, it takes away the potential for a third straight rematch between them and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals.
#3 Vancouver at #2 Chicago, Chicago leads series 3-1
Chicago is on some type of streak right now and they don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The Blackhawks were the preseason favorites of many analysts around the league, to be playing at the end of May for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Tonight, they have the opportunity at home to take that all-important next step and advance to the Conference Finals to take on the #1 San Jose Sharks.
The Blackhawks are coming off of back-to-back games that featured hat-tricks. In game 3, Dustin Byfuglien managed to score his first three goals of the playoffs, all in the same game. Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews followed up Byfuglien’s hat-trick with his own hat-trick in game 4.
Toew’s also helped on two-goals in the Blackhawks 7-4 victory Friday night, giving him the assists and points lead for this playoff season with 13 assists and 18 points.
If Vancouver wants to get back into this series tonight, they are going to need much better play from goalie Roberto Luongo and they will need to shut down the Blackhawks power-play. It seems like this is a common theme among teams trailing in a series. It sounds simple enough, but anyone that follows hockey, knows how difficult it can be to get consistent goalie play throughout the playoffs.
Luongo needs to find his game that helped Team Canada bring home the Gold Medal this past February, at the 2010 Winter Olympics. In the past two games, Luongo has allowed 12 goals, including two hat-tricks.
If and when Chicago defeats the Canucks to win the series, it will be the first time since the 2007 season that a #1 seed will play a #2 seed In the Conference Finals. In 2007, #1 Detroit lost to #2 Anaheim in six games, 2-4.
Prediction: Chicago, 5-3
Chicago is clicking on all cylinders right now and I don’t see them slowing down at home. In the last three Chicago victories, they have outscored the Canucks by eight goals, 16-8. I look for that trend to continue tonight and for Chicago to move on to their second-consecutive Conference Finals.
image courtesy of sharksblog.com