The No. 2 seed Detroit Red Wings and the No. 4 seed Chicago Blackhawks will clash in the Western Conference finals beginning Sunday afternoon. Here are 10 items for your consideration about this matchup.
10. What does history tell us? This will be the 15th time that Chicago and Detroit have met in the playoffs, the first since the 1995 Western Conference finals that saw the Red Wings take the series 4-1 en route to being swept by the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Blackhawks have won eight of the last 14 meetings between the two in the postseason. The Red Wings have won five of the past seven postseason meetings between the old Norris Division rivals with a finals berth on the line.
9. Video game stardom abounds. Both teams feature EA Sports NHL cover boys. Former Detroit captain Steve Yzerman split the honors for NHL 96 with New Jersey's Scott Stevens. For the upcoming NHL 10, it looks as if Chicago's Patrick Kane(notes) will get cover duties.
8. The Red Wings are winners. Stanley Cup rings between the teams: Detroit has 44 and Chicago has just three. See? Detroit really is a bunch of gray beards.
7. Who has the power? The Blackhawks (29.4 percent) and Red Wing (26.4 percent) are 1-2 in power-play success this postseason. At this point in the season, any power play is important and the fact that these two teams rule with the extra man will be an important factor as the series goes along.
6. No one respects the goalies. Chris Osgood(notes) might be up and down during the regular season, but once the playoffs come, he becomes a completely different goaltender. Thus far, Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) has bested Miikka Kiprusoff(notes) and Roberto Luongo(notes) in back-to-back series. Is this a series of underrated goaltenders outside of Chicago and Detroit?
5. Best player commercial? Detroit wins this award by a hair, but only because it sounds like a Dr. Rahmani aimed a LASIK laser at Pavel Datysuk when he read his line:
4. Positive vibe if they win the Cup. With the economy in Detroit in peril another parade would boost morale for the people in the Motor City. For Chicago, the parade route would include a stop at the grave of Bill Wirtz, where dancing shall commence.
Feeling edgy and want to be different from the crowd? Then Jonathan Toews' muttonchops might be to your liking.
2. Best coaching accessory? Joel Quenneville's varsity jacket he wore during the Winter Classic at Wrigley Field might make him friends with Arthur Fonzarelli, nothing can ever beat the fashion trend Mike Babcock started on New Year's Day: the fedora. Trying to recapture the Toe Blake days of old time hockey, Babcock might have earned himself a bit part in the next "Young Guns" sequel.
1. The big prediction. Detroit wins the series 4-2.
The Blackhawks will be the highly supported underdog in this series and it'll be fun to see the no-beards try and take down the gray beards for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup. There's been some that have said the lack of experience for Chicago has actually been a plus for the Blackhawks, explaining that they don't know the magnitude of what they're involved in.
Well, that's rubbish of course; every player knows what's on the line, but the Red Wings are still that machine that rolls four lines that can punish you and a blue line that is very defensively responsible. Let's not forget Chris Osgood, who, no matter how doubted the man is during the regular season, seems to flip a switch and turn it on once the playoffs come around.
HockeyTown should attempt for its 12th Stanley Cup title when all is said and done in the Western Conference finals.