As this years NHL's Western Conference Finals against the L.A. Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks kick off today, we can briefly reflect upon the Detroit series ....and we can look back at L.A. and their series with San Jose.
As many of you know, I don't like to write during a series (about the present series)...I don't know if it's superstition, or I don't like pumping the tires of my team to only have my heart popped by some balloon,...if they were to lose.
So, since my team was down 3 games to 1 before getting their act together, what did I see?
I saw that Detroit was OWNING the blue line. The Hawks couldn't create plays or any type of opportunities, and it got to the point they were simply happy just to get it out of their own zone with dump out passes with really no intended forward to go to.
After that game, I'll never forget looking on FACEBOOK and seeing a sign. ...Here , I'll let you read it,...
I remember reading that and thinking... "how can they ask me to calm down?" ..."Really?. How can the Hawks fan be calm about this situation or even the Hawks be calm about this situation?" They're down 3-1 for God's sake!!!
Then watching post interviews and still seeing the "we believe" attitude.
Hmmmmmmm, I thought. I hope this isn't overconfidence, but rather a demeanor that is to focus on 'what's at hand'........whatever it was,.....it freakin' worked. they regained that swagger in Chicago. How?
For goodness sakes......the defensemen broke the blueline. They were the ones to create the opportunities. The Redwings were so focused on stopping Toews, the specialty guys took over. However,.......it was lovely to see the Captain break through with a ringer of the noggin of Howard .....AND it was during the power play, no less.
They fought and played with the same character in game 6. Frolik with a lovely penalty shot (and eventual game winner).
Heading into the 7th game, I was able to breathe slightly better,..but that was short lived as the Redwings did the same thing to the Hawks that happened to them a night earlier. They scored early in the 3rd period to make it a game. It looked like the game was still being controlled by the Hawks, and it looked to be over with less than 2 minutes to go as Hjalmarsson top shelved a goal.....only to be wiped out by a total bullshit call by the ref. He called incidental penalties to a non related play. Hawks had to regroup and they came out in the O.T. and scored within the first 4 minutes of the period as Seabrook moved in uncontested and got a lucky deflection that altered the pucks direction.....and SCORED.
Grit, willpower, determination, not easily being frazzled. What else can you say about this team? Spectacular comeback. Everyone left them for dead when they were down 3-1....but, they still believed. They overcame and conquered.
L.A. Well, I would have to put that into 2 words. Jonathan Quick. He's been their entire team. He's proven to be the best goaltender in the league, and he has not allowed nano-mites to enter his net. Unbelievable.
I expect this series to be fun and exhilarating.
Forwards: I have to give that edge to Chicago. Although Kopitar, Carter and Richards are no joke, I do like the fact Chicago roles out 4 lines. 4 very quick lines. Don't underestimate the Hawks speed. They'll tire you the hell out with their puck possession game. I know that L.A. has huge forwards, but the Hawks will hit you also. They just prefer to run the puck down your throats.
Defense: I also give that edge to Chicago. Although Doughty isn't less than an All-Star in anyone's mind, I love the way Duncan Keith and Nick Leddy are bringing up the puck. Even,....Johhny Oduya for that matter. They have 3 defenseman that will join in on the rush....all with SPEED. In addition, I think Michal Rozsival is playing better and Brent Seabrook is a solid defenseman and is playing at his best right now. (Seabrook is still considered one of the 6 Blackhawks superstars.)
Goalies: Well,....have to give the slight edge to L.A. But, does everyone forget that BOTH Hawks goalies won the William M. Jennings award? Both goalies finished the season with a 1.94 GAA. How sick is that folks? So,....I'll barely go with the Quickie hype. But, only on paper. I have to go with Crow in my heart.
Coaches: Have to go with Quenneville here. He's one of the best coaches in the entire NHL. Other than Bobby Bowman,.....who else could the Hawks want? Noboddy. His resume is stellar. And he's a coaches coach. They love playing for him.
Intangibles: Home ice advantage, the crowd noise, : both Chicago. Special teams: I'll go with the Hawks there as well.
Now....NOT ONE of these things means the Hawks will slide by L.A. NOT EVEN CLOSE. There are some experts picking L.A. When you have a Conn Smythe goalie in Quick,....and if their offense turns on,...that would mean it's a handful of a team. A HANDFUL. So,...Hawks have to remain focused and simply take care of business. They'll be fine.
I understand that Jonathan Quick is all world. But, if the Hawks can throw 35-45 pucks at him every night,.....he's in trouble. Oh,.....and don't underestimate how good Corey Crawford actually is? Everyone seems to be. Announcers, media, fans.......He is playing well enough that if the Hawks were to win today,.....He or Duncan Keith would be my two votes for the Conn Smythe award.
Okay.......Game on L.A. Talk to you guys soon. Need to get my Jonathan Toews jersey washed. It's starting to smell.