Series Odds: Chicago -150 vs. Calgary +140
November 9th: Cgy 1 @ Chi 6
December 19th: Chi 3 @ Cgy 2 (OT)
January 4th: Cgy 2 @ Chi 5
February 5th: Chi 5 @ Cgy 2
The Chicago Blackhawks head into the playoffs with momentum, finishing the season with a home-and-home sweep of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings and a 6-0-1 record in April. The Flames are seemingly going in the opposite direction, as they lost their big lead in the Northwest division and have been hit hard by injuries.
Both teams boast excellent depth at forward. The Flames can roll out three solid scoring lines, and will get a boost if Rene Bourque can make it back into the line-up. They have a good mix of stars (Iginla, Jokinen, Cammalleri) players who can produce consistently (Langkow, Bertuzzi, Conroy) and pleasant surprises (Glencross, Lundmark).
The Blackhawks line-up is front-loaded with exciting young talent. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and a healthy Martin Havlat lead the way up front, and rookie Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Andrew Ladd, and Dave Bolland provide the Hawks with excellent secondary scoring.
Edge: Close, but Calgary has a slight edge due to the veteran experience of their top performers.
At the beginning of the season, the Flames were expected to have one of the best defensive units in the league. They still do, but how many of those players will be playing? Here are Calgary’s defensemen from last Saturday’s game against the Oilers: Adrian Aucoin, Jim Vandermeer, Jordan Leopold, Matt Pelech, Adam Pardy, and John Negrin. A Flames team missing Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr, and Cory Sarich will not get past the Blackhawks. Phaneuf will be back soon, but the other guys will be out for a while.
The Blackhawks d-men have pleasantly surprised this year. Youngsters Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are a combined +56. Brian Campbell has played consistently, and the Hawks have also been getting offensive contributions from Keith and Cam Barker.
Edge: Chicago, but only because of the Flames’ injuries.
This series features two excellent goaltenders, and is a goaltending rematch of the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup finals. Mikka Kiprusoff led the NHL in wins this season, but his goals against was 2.84, and has increased every year with the Flames. He is still reliable and has playoff experience.
For the Hawks, Nikolai Khabibulin is playing well, having allowed more than 2 goals only once in his last six games. He has taken over as the starting goaltender for Chicago after a long battle with Cristobal Huet. This series could come down to goaltending, as both teams are very talented offensively.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 5. Calgary is not healthy enough at theback end to compete with the high-scoring Hawks.