Who’s Up Next for the Chicago Blackhawks?
At some point during the second intermission of Thursdays Chicago Blackhawks game a friend asked me who I thought would be a better match-up in the second round: the Detroit Red Wings or the San Jose Sharks?
At the time, I was soaked in the euphoria associated with a 4-1 second period lead over the Minnesota Wild, and so I ever so eloquently replied that I had no fear of either team, as we were going to sweep whomever we faced. In fact, I believe I then guaranteed the Hawks would go undefeated the rest of the way and that if they met the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Finals, Chicago goalie Corey Crawford would most likely eat Sidney Crosby’s heart on the ice.
Like I said: Euphoria.
But now I’ve recovered from all that emotion. I’ve recovered and feel the need to hash-out my feelings about the Western Conference semi-finals. Would I rather face the Wings, who would be pumped up after a huge game seven win versus the Anaheim Ducks, or a well-rested San Jose team that swept the Vancouver Canucks out of the playoffs with terrifying efficiency?
Neither one sounds as appealing as it did on Thursday.
Playing the Sharks would give Hawks an opportunity to score some payback on San Jose LW Raffi Torres for his cheap shot on Marian Hossa during the playoffs last year. Torres jumped into a hit that ended Hossa’s season, earned him a 25 (later reduced to 21) game suspension and the eternal hatred of every Blackhawks fan. It goes without saying that any time he touches the puck the “Madhouse on Madison” will be howling for revenge.
And then there’s Antti Niemi. The Sharks goalie will always have a special place in the hearts of Chicagoans after he led the Hawks to their first Stanley Cup in 49 years. Unfortunately, the Hawks’ salary cap situation forced them to make several painful decisions concerning personnel, and so Niemi ended up signing with the Sharks.
His consistent play has taken San Jose to the playoffs each year since then, and this season he put together an exceptional campaign that led the league in Wins (24). My guess is that I wouldn’t be the only one who would find it bittersweet to beat Niemi on the way back to the Cup.
But what about Detroit? Could anything be more satisfying than knocking our arch-rivals out of the playoffs? With the re-alignment that’s scheduled for next season, the Wings are headed to the Eastern Conference, so one final battle in the playoffs would only be fitting.
The Hawks swept the season series 4-0 and Crawford has completely dominated, allowing just five goals over that span. Detroit would no doubt be riding high after a huge upset of the Ducks, however, it’d be safe to say Wings coach Mike Babcock would not relish the idea of a seven game series against a team he hasn’t beaten since last January.
In the end, I’ll take a date with the Red Wings. I’d absolutely love to see Brandon Bollig or Daniel Carcillo knock out a few of Torres’ teeth, but I’m a goalie guy and don’t need to see Niemi embarrassed if it isn’t absolutely necessary. Besides, I’d love to finish off the greatest rivalry in hockey with a good old fashioned beat-down.
Of course, if the Wings could somehow figure out a way to upset the Hawks, I’m not sure what I’d…
Euphoria. Happy thoughts. C’mon man…