Ryan Dadoun

Playoff Preview

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Western Playoff Preview

Monday, April 09, 2012




(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs (6) Chicago Blackhawks  

  When Phoenix lost goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers, who were willing to pay him $51 million over nine years, the Coyotes decided to go with a cheaper option.  Fortunately for them, it proved not to be a lesser option.  After inking a two-year/$4 million contract with the Coyotes over the summer, Mike Smith has earned his paycheck by carrying Phoenix to their first Pacific Division title.  

  Smith has been good all season, but he’s been matching up with the elites lately. He has a 1.91 GAA and .941 save percentage in 29 games since the All-Star break and he’s allowed all of two goals in his last five starts.  That includes a stunning 54-save shutout on April 3rd.  If hot goaltending win Cups, then the Phoenix Coyotes might surprise people.  

  All the same, the Chicago Blackhawks can’t be overlooked.  They’re still not far removed from their 2010 Stanley Cup win and they have plenty of scoring threats to counter Smith in Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, and Patrick Kane.  Of course the man missing from that list is Jonathan Toews, who is trying to recover from a concussion.  Whether or not the Blackhawks get their captain back is one of the big X-factors going into this series.  

  The other is Chicago’s goaltending.  Corey Crawford has taken a step back this season with a 2.72 GAA and .903 save percentage.  They do have a capable backup in Ray Emery, but he has allowed three or more goals in four of his last six starts.  

  Chicago has the better regular season record despite the Western Conference seeding, so it’s hard to call them the underdogs in this series, but that’s how I see them without Toews.  Since moving to Glendale, the Phoenix Coyotes have never made it past the first round, but I think this could be the year.  I’m picking Phoenix to win in six games.  

  Phoenix  

  Ray Whitney-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata Lauri Korpikoski-Antoine Vermette-Shane Doan Raffi Torres-Daymond Langkow-Gilbert Brule Taylor Pyatt-Boyd Gordon-Mikkel Boedker  

  Keith Yandle-Derek Morris Michael Stone-Oliver Ekman-Larsson Rostislav Klesla-Michal Roszival  

  Mike Smith Jason LaBarbera  

  WHO’S HOT  

 
As mentioned earlier, Smith couldn't be much hotter right now.  Ray Whitney is another Coyotes player to watch after scoring three goals and 16 points in 13 games.  

  WHO’S NOT  

 
Defenseman Keith Yandle has been limited to just a goal and an assist in his last 11 games.  

  NOTES  

 
Phoenix was one of the more disciplined teams in the NHL this season with only 280 minor penalties.  They racked up 757 penalty minutes as a team, which is the third lowest total in the league.  

  The Coyotes are relatively healthy going into the first round.  

  Phoenix won their season series against Chicago 3-1.  The Coyotes earned a 3-0 shutout over the Blackhawks in their final season meeting on February 11th.  

  Chicago  

 
Patrick Sharp-Patrick Kane-Andrew Shaw Viktor Stalberg-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa Bryan Bickell-Brendan Morrison-Michael Frolik Brandon Bollig-Jamal Mayers-Jimmy Hayes

  Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook Nick Leddy-Johnny Oduya Sean O'Donnell-Niklas Hjalmarsson  

  Corey Crawford Ray Emery  

  WHO’S HOT  

 
Andrew Shaw has stepped up lately with five goals and 12 points in his last 11 contests.  Viktor Stalberg has been almost as good with six goals and five assists in his last 13 games.  

  WHO’S NOT  

  Brendan Morrison has struggled since Chicago acquired him from Calgary.  He has no points and a minus-four rating in 11 games with the Blackhawks and has spent several games in the press box.  

  NOTES

 
This is the first time the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes have ever faced each other in the playoffs.  

  Jonathan Toews and Steve Montador are both suffering from concussions.  Dave Bolland is questionable for the start of the first round with an upper body injury.  The Blackhawks might also be without Andrew Brunette, who is day-to-day with a foot problem.  

  Chicago finished last in the NHL in hits and ranked 26th overall with 1,019 blocked shots this season.

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Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
Email :Ryan Dadoun



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