By the way that title means we have our winner (it was damn close).
Like a bad dream (speaking of which, this opens tomorrow), it's time to review the Hawks once again from top to bottom, starting with their defense and in net. Part of the reason Vancouver lost last year is that Chicago's blueline can transition from defense to offense stupid effectively. You remember: a quick transition along the boards or tape to tape outlet pass, Mitchell or Ohlund are caught instantly on their heels and an odd man rush or someone with Kane's speed barreled in to greet the Captain. Well the Hawks defense is pretty much the season as it was last year so, yup, the same problem remains.
On top of that, Chicago had a GA/G of 2.48, good enough for
sixth fifth best in the regular season and 2.50, or third best in the post season. Not bad either.
Grab a drink (what? It's lunch) and let's take a look at the double edged sword.
#2 / Defenseman / Chicago Blackhawks
Jul 16, 1983
|2009 - Duncan Keith||82||14||55||69||21||51||3||1||1||0||213||6.6|
The second straight Norris Trophy nominee Vancouver has to deal with and one half of (my opinion) the best defensive duo in the league. Second highest point getter on Chicago and set career marks in goals, assists, points, PPG and shots. Second highest qualcomp on the team's blueline so, just like last year, he'll be draped over the Twins. Lead the team in giveaways (59) but I suspect that has more to do with his TOI than anything else. Lead the blueline in offensive and defensive zone starts. Blah blah blah, we know the deal: he's dangerous in every situation and remains a constant threat for the team-leading 27:57 he's out there. He had three points (2G, 1A) against Vancouver this season.
#7 / Defenseman / Chicago Blackhawks
Apr 20, 1985
|2009 - Brent Seabrook||78||4||26||30||20||59||0||0||2||0||129||3.1|
The other half of the Hawk's top pairing is a BC Native duo who is a key shutdown-type player. He's right there alongside Keith leading in offensive and defensive zone starts. He's also the team's leading shotblocker from the regular season (152). Seabrook's a good, patent skater Vancouver needs to respect despite the fact he he didn't have the best second half of the season (see Corsi too). He had no points and was -1 against Vancouver this season.
(For more on how effective the pair are, see the defensive frequencies below.)
#51 / Defenseman / Chicago Blackhawks
May 23, 1979
|2009 - Brian Campbell||68||7||31||38||18||18||3||0||2||0||131||5.3|
Campbell shored up some his inconsistent play (helped in part by the next guy in our list) and ended up with the second highest points on the team for a defenseman. He didn't set any career marks (unless get Ovechkin'ed was on his bucket list) but he's obviously capable of being a threat at both ES and the PP. Because he's paired with more of a stay-at-home-type player he can be start or join the rush far more easily. High Corsi with a low qualcomp, he had two assists with a -2 against Vancouver this season. Helpful hint: Pavol Demitra should leave him alone this round.
#4 / Defenseman / Chicago Blackhawks
Jun 06, 1987
|2009 - Niklas Hjalmarsson||77||2||15||17||9||20||0||0||1||0||62||3.2|
Hey a blueline newbie and a Swede (also left off the national team). Hjalmarsson's steady play made it possible for the Hawks to ship Cam Barker off into the woods somewhere and has played well alongside Campbell and on the PK to earn himself a permanent slot. He's right behind Seabrook and Keith for offensive & defensive zone starts so he's earned Q's trust in pressure moments. Owns the second worst Corsi on the blueline and picked up 2A and a -1 against Vancouver this season. His last name is vaguely similar to the sound a human makes when he or she hacks up something from deep in their lungs.
#33 / Right Wing / Chicago Blackhawks
Mar 27, 1985
|2009 - Dustin Byfuglien||82||17||17||34||-7||94||6||0||3||0||211||8.1|
[Note: I know Byfuglien has been practicing at forward, but these were the lines I was given, I originally wrote this back on Tuesday and I'm too lazy to change it now. Sue me. If Byfuglien remains at forward he'll probably be replaced by Hendry...no not him...not him...ah there he is.]
Injuries temporarily shifted Byfuglien back to the blueline where he was still playing against Nashville in the first round. Don't be shocked if he moves to the forward ranks because, as we know, his moment in the sun came when he was parked on top of Luongo, scored some goals, got under the Captain's skin, made us all want him dead...so on and so forth. It's incredibly tempting to take pot shots at such a deserving sack of fucking shit (opps), but let's be honest: when he's on his game, what he does is effective and against Vancouver that goes double. Maybe a year later the magic is gone or the Canucks won't react to the liberties he takes and he spends time in the box; who knows, he's a wildcard. He lead the Hawks in hits (215) and against Vancouver he had one assist, +1 and 10 PIMs.
#5 / Defenseman / Chicago Blackhawks
Jan 07, 1977
|2009 - Brent Sopel||73||1||7||8||3||34||0||0||0||0||48||2.1|
Bringing up the rear (snicker) for Chicago's defense is a familiar face and, as such, we already know he's got decent puck sense and a good shot. Though with his best offensive years behind him, Sopel's strength is on the PK (again see frequencies below or read further here) so prepare to see a good deal of him and Hjalmarsson when Keith and Seabrook take a breather. He owns the worst Corsi on the blueline and was scoreless with a -1 against Vancouver this year.
And since we have to hear about what presumed cheap shots our team is all the time, watch until 1:28 here. Class act.
#31 / Goalie / Chicago Blackhawks
Aug 29, 1983
|2009 - Antti Niemi||39||2190||26||7||82||2.25||936||854||.912||7|
Another playoff rookie netminder, Antti Niemi (seen above showing you his rapist face) has already had a strong post season in six games: .921 save %, 2.15 GAA and 2 SO's. They're some scary numbers, especially in contrast with Luongo's .893 save % and 2.92 GAA. Niemi's regular season was decent too, effectively splitting the duties with Huet and picking up 26 wins with a .912 save % and 2.25 save %. Against Vancouver, Niemi was 1-2 with a 2.59 GAA and a .918 save % and 1 SO. Niemi strikes me as a guy who could run hot and cold (and Vancouver did chase him once) but right now he's playing well. Can Vancouver get enough pressure and quality scoring chances to make him Jonathan Quick?
Defensive Pairing Frequencies
- EV Defense -> Keith/Seabrook = 30% frequency, Campbell/Hjalmarsson = 23% frequency
- PP Defense -> Keith/Seabrook = 21% frequency
- SH Defense -> Keith/Seabrook = 43% frequency, Sopel/Hjalmarsson = 21% frequency
- EV Defense -> Keith/Seabrook = 27% frequency, Sopel/Hjalmarsson = 13% frequency
- PP Defense -> Keith/Seabrook = 26% frequency, Sopel/Hjalmarsson = 12% frequency, Campbell/Seabrook = 11%
- SH Defense -> Sopel/Hjalmarsson = 46% frequency, Keith/Seabrook = 36% frequency