Western Conference Finals Preview
May 17, 2009 by Big Tony
The Conference Finals start Sunday afternoon so before they get rolling let’s take a lot at both series to see what we should expect from both and most importantly who will win!
The Western Conference features the regulars versus the new kids on the block as the Detroit Red Wings take on the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit won the Stanley Cup last year and are in position to be the first team to repeat as champions since they did it in 1997-98. This process is nothing new to the Red Wings and they’ll be all business come Sunday afternoon whereas the Blackhawks have not been here in quite some time. Chicago is looking to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1992 where they were swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. With those facts in mind which team has the edge? The easy answer is the Detroit Red Wings and rightfully so but there are other factors that play into this series that will make it a lot closer than it might first appear on paper. The following are what I think each team needs to do to win:
Detroit simply needs to remained focused on their goal. One of the things they pride themselves in is not retaliating to any post-whistle scrums, cheap shots, or “jaw-jacking” the other team might do which they have to continue to do. The Red Wings must allow their superior level of skill to shine through no matter the circumstances and stay out of the penalty box. This series is different from the previous two in that way because it is a natural rivalry that goes back to the 1920s and the early days of the NHL. But the most important factor for Detroit is going to be the play of Chris Osgood. There is no denying all that Osgood has accomplished but none of that is counted toward his record in this series. Osgood has played well thus far in the playoffs but if it returns to his regular season form at all the Hawks will eat him alive which would push Mike Babcock to insert Ty Conklin who was not much better over the course of the season and hasn’t played in these playoffs at all so far.
Chicago has to keep playing with reckless abandon giving no credence to any of the factors going against them. Sure this is the first time most of them have been in this spot and yes the Red Wings greatly outmatch them at almost every position and yes Detroit is very methodical about their play from the opening face-off to the end of the game. Chicago cannot look to the other side of the ice and be blinded by the glare of Hart, Conn Smythe, and Norris Trophies and Stanley Cup rings. The young Hawks simply need to play hockey they way they have all along in these playoffs. They don’t care who they are up against they are just a bunch of young guys who love to play hockey and are going out there to beat up on whoever they’re playing. Most importantly, they will have to rely heavily on Nikolai Khabibulin’s experience in goal to possibly propel them to the next level. If the Hawks can do that they give themselves a very good chance of winning this series. In the long run however I think the Red Wings will be too much and will send the Hawks packing in a very competitive five game series.
Tune in tomorrow for the Eastern Conference Finals preview.