Randy Holt – NHL Network Manager
This is a series that a lot of people are divided on. On one side, you have the Phoenix Coyotes, who can be a tough matchup for anyone in the NHL. They lack star power, but work inside of a system that has proven to be very strong defensively. They’re obviously led by a possible Vezina candidate in Mike Smith, as well as a very strong group of defensemen, including Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle. The big question for Phoenix will be whether or not they will be able to find the net enough to keep up with Chicago. Their biggest point getter is the middle aged Ray Whitney, with Radim Vrbata leading the team in goals.
On the Chicago side, there are plenty of questions. The biggest is the health of Jonathan Toews. If he’s ready for the series, having been out since February 19th with a concussion, that shifts the momentum to the side of the Hawks before the series even starts. They’re a team obviously boosted by a big offensive attack, with Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa, with a solid group of defenseman as well. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are as steady a pairing as they come, and Johnny Oduya has been fantastic since coming over from Winnipeg. The biggest question for the Blackhawks will be whether or not Corey Crawford can ride his momentum into the postseason and match up with Smith.
Prediction: Chicago in 6.