COMMENTARY | It's only fitting the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings face off in the playoffs the last year of Detroit's existence in the Western Conference. The only time they'll ever meet in the playoffs after this year is if we see them both in the Stanley Cup Final, which, let's be honest, is a matchup everyone and their mother hopes to see at some point.
But until then, the Blackhawks and Red Wings meet for the last time in a Western Conference semifinal.
The Blackhawks had no trouble with the Minnesota Wild in the quarterfinals winning in five games. The Red Wings, on the other hand, needed seven games to beat the Anaheim Ducks.
While the gap in the regular season standings between these two teams is wide, I expect this will be a close series.
The Blackhawks swept the regular season series against the Red Wings, but three of the four games needed overtime to determine a winner and two of those games went to a shootout.
Had the Red Wings been somewhat decent at shootouts (2-5 on the season), they could have split the regular season series. Fortunately for the Red Wings, there are no shootouts in the playoffs, and they have fared well in overtime in this year's playoffs (3-1).
The only game between these teams that wasn't close was when the Blackhawks annihilated the Red Wings 7-1. However, the Red Wings did come back from a West Coast road trip in which they played four games in seven nights, so I'll cut them some slack on that one.
The Blackhawks earned the Presidents' Trophy for the best record in the regular season. They started the shortened season with at least one point in the first 24 games. The problem the Blackhawks faced last year -- consistent goaltending -- has seemingly fixed itself this year.
In five games against the Wild, Corey Crawford has a 1.32 GAA with a .950 save percentage. Granted, the Wild aren't a scoring machine -- 2.42 goals scored per game during the regular season -- but allowing less than 1.50 goals per game in a series is a remarkable stat regardless of who you play.
Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa are on fire for the Blackhawks as each have collected six points in the first five games of the playoffs. Not to mention, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane didn't register a goal in the first series. When your two best players don't score and you still win a series, you know you've got a quality team.
However, the Red Wings have their own star power. After being held scoreless in the first five games, Henrik Zetterberg now has three goals (eight points) in the playoffs and Pavel Datsyuk is right behind him with seven points. Even Justin Abdelkader, a third- or fourth-line center last year, is contributing with three points in five games.
Jimmy Howard's numbers aren't all that impressive (2.74, .911), but a few of those goals against him were bad breaks or lucky bounces. Howard was clutch for the Red Wings when they needed him the most.
This is a tough matchup to call. The Blackhawks have dominated all season and in the first round of the playoffs, and the Red Wings appear to be peaking at the right time.
But I have to choose the Blackhawks in this series. It's not that I'm underestimating the Red Wings, I just think the Blackhawks are too good. They have so many weapons on offense and a solid goaltender in net. Howard matches Crawford in net, but the Red Wings aren't as deep up front.
It's going to go down to the wire, but I think the Blackhawks move on to the Western Conference Finals.
Prediction: Blackhawks win in 7.
Tom Mitsos is a Michigan native who covers the Detroit Red Wings for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He also is a high school sports reporter at MLive Media Group. You can find Tom on Twitter @tom_mitsos.
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