This kid’s starting tonight. Best of luck to him.
We’re almost at the quarter pole, and the Blackhawks still haven’t lost in regulation. Here are the early award winners for the Blackhawks.
He’s second in the league in points, third in goals, ninth in assists. He’s been fucking awesome.
Tie: Johnny Oduya and Duncan Keith
On one hand, Keith is playing his best hockey since the Cup run. On the other hand, Oduya takes a punishment and earns his Blackhawks-leading +9 +/- rating.
Best Special Teams Guy
He’s been pivotal on the penalty kill. He clears pucks, he blocks shots, and just works his butt off all game. He and Michael Frolik are the reasons why the Blackhawks have given up a mere 3 goals while shorthanded.
Most Surprising Start
Tie: Goaltending Duo and Third Line (Bickell, Stalberg, Shaw)
Who would have thought that Crawford would be the league-leader in wins and 7th in the league in GAA? And who would have thought that Bickell could play as well as he has with Stalberg and Shaw? They’ve been awesome.
Hawks win! Crawford was stellar in a particularly physical game. 3-2 is the final against Columbus.
Hasek robs Lemieux!
Dominik Hasek, one of the great goalies to come out of the Blackhawks organization, is looking to play in the NHL again. At the age of 47, he has offered his services to one of his former teams, the Buffalo Sabres. However, Buffalo turned him down. This leads to speculation though; could the Blackhawks have interest in Hasek?
The first question is whether Hasek can still perform well in the National Hockey League. He hasn’t played in North America since 2007-08 run with Detroit, which raises some doubt. Luckily though, he hasn’t been idle. He played in the KHL in 2010-11, and played well with a GAA of 2.48 with 7 shutouts. The KHL is no NHL, though.
Hasek has played well since the age of 40, which gives him credibility. He has kept his GAA under 2.10, held onto a 91% save percentage, and has had 18 shutouts in 140 games. Plus, he’s been the #1 goalie, not the back-up, in his three NHL years past the age of 40. He wouldn’t have to do that in Chicago, though. At maximum, he would play 30 games a year behind Corey Crawford. This would be a great situation for the Blackhawks.
Now, here’s the possibilities with contracts. It’s been reported that Hasek wants a multiyear deal. Thus, the Chicago Blackhawks would probably give him a 2 year deal for $2.5 million a year. This would work well for both parties; Hasek gets to come back to the NHL, and Chicago will get a great back-up goalie to mentor Crawford. This could, potentially, be a great contract.
This is all speculation. There’s no evidence that Hasek is looking at the Blackhawks; it’s only evident that he wants to return to the NHL. However, wouldn’t it be cool to see Dom come back to Chicago after 20 years?
These two teams are bitter playoffs rivals, as this will be the third time in four years that they square off. For Washington, this series is all about trying to prove to the league that they CAN win a Stanley Cup, while the Rangers, who are definitely the favorites, look to continue their march for their first Cup since ‘94.
Both teams have had tremendous goaltending. Lundqvist has sustained a .945 save percentage, while Braden Holtby has surprised the league with a marvelous .940 SV% and a goals allowed average of 2. Neither of these two goalies have had much success in the past, but one will have to be in this series. Because of the two teams’ high octane offenses, the goalie that bows under the pressure will be the one that loses the series. Look for a stellar performance by one of the two netminders.
The two offenses are also very closely matched. Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan have been good through the first round, as have Alex Semin and Alexander Ovechkin. The performances of these players will be essential, as one could easily imagine. If they can’t perform as well as they can, an exit similar to the Blackhawks-Coyotes series could occur.
Both of the defenses have good offensive defensemen while still having some of the stay-at-home variety. For the Caps, no single defensive pairing is overloaded with minutes, while the Rangers are reliant on Dan Girardi’s and Ryan McDonagh’s help on the blue line. This could be exploited by the Capitals, for they have enough good offensive lines to tire Girardi and McDonagh. This will be a critical area in the series; if Girardi and McDonagh play a smart shutdown game in their own zone, the Rangers will win the series.
My prediction: Capitals in 6. They’re hot, and they match up well against the Rangers. Washington has won the last two playoff series against New York, and there is no reason to expect a different result this time.