Vancouver put a quick stop to the St. Louis Blues with a sweep in Round One, while the Blackhawks took six games to fight off a gritty, but battered Calgary squad. This matchup pits deep, diverse lineups backed by excellent goaltending. It has all the makings of a classic playoff series.
A very evenly matched pair of teams here, but the skaters for Chicago get a slight edge in terms of the Shots and Goals For/Against. Another point to consider here is that Vancouver has been much better in the 2nd half of the season than the 1st, so current performance is likely better than many of these total-year figures.
|2008 - Cristobal Huet||41||2351||20||15||4||5||99||2.53||1087||988||.909||3|
|2008 - Nikolai Khabibulin||42||2467||25||8||7||1||96||2.33||1192||1096||.919||3|
|2008 - Roberto Luongo||54||3181||33||13||7||5||124||2.34||1542||1418||.920||9|
No OtF preview would be complete without a look at Penalty Plus/Minus, to see which players will head to, or send other players to, the box:
|Chicago||Penalties Drawn||Vancouver||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|Ben Eager||33||45||-12||Alex Burrows||58||48||10|
|Patrick Kane||32||19||13||Ryan Kesler||37||23||14|
|Dustin Byfuglien||31||29||2||Kevin Bieksa||34||35||-1|
|Jonathan Toews||29||23||6||Daniel Sedin||32||18||14|
|Dave Bolland||28||21||7||Henrik Sedin||31||23||8|
|Kris Versteeg||27||14||13||Darcy Hordichuk||28||30||-2|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|Ben Eager||33||45||-12||Shane O'Brien||27||57||-30|
|Dustin Byfuglien||31||29||2||Alex Burrows||58||48||10|
|Brent Seabrook||16||28||-12||Mattias Ohlund||13||46||-33|
|Matt Walker||16||26||-10||Kevin Bieksa||34||35||-1|
|Duncan Keith||8||26||-18||Darcy Hordichuk||28||30||-2|
|Adam Burish||25||24||1||Willie Mitchell||22||27||-5|
Both teams get plenty of power play action (Chicago was 3rd in the league, Vancouver 9th), but on the flip side, the Blackhawks appear to have more discipline in avoiding penalties. Vancouver had to fight off the 5th-most penalty kills in the league this season (371), while Chicago ranked 18th (336). The Blackhawks burned Calgary on the power play in the 1st round, and the Canucks must take care if they're to avoid a similar fate. The guys to keep an eye on are Shane O'Brien and Mattias Ohlund on Vancouver, who held down the very bottom of the Penalty Plus/Minus rankings this year.
Expect a ton of hype over Pittsburgh/Washington in the East, and there's lots of bad blood between Detroit and Anaheim in the West, but I think this could be the most entertaining and closely fought battle in the 2nd round. Based on Vancouver's 2nd-half performance, home-ice advantage, and the hot goaltending of Roberto Luongo (who never gave up more than 2 goals to St. Louis in the opening round), I'm taking the Vancouver Canucks in a nail-biter of a series. I expect Luongo to make the difference with a shutout or two that will frustrate the talented Chicago forwards.