Blackhawks-Coyotes Playoff Preview

With their win on Saturday night, the Phoenix Coyotes clinched the Pacific Division title and a first round playoff matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.

So how do the two teams stack up? Let’s take a look.

We have already talked about how the Blackhawks performed in the regular season games against the Coyotes, noting the Hawks 1-2-1 record against Phoenix. The key point to remember, however, is that the two teams haven’t played each other since Feb. 11, and a lot has changed since then (Johnny Oduya in, Jonathan Toews out).

The Hawks are the six seed, but they come into the series with more points, regulation and overtime wins, and a similar goal differential to the Coyotes.

Chicago was the second-highest scoring team in the Western Conference (behind Vancouver)… but they allowed 29 more goals than any other playoff team in the West and have the lowest goal differential in the conference.

Special Teams

It’s a known issue in Chicago that the Blackhawks have a bad power play; they finished the year scoring on only 15.2 percent of their opportunities with a man “advantage,” which ranked 26th in the NHL.

But the Coyotes finished the year as one of the four teams with a lower power play efficiency than the Hawks. Phoenix scored on only 13.6 percent of their opportunities, which ranked 29th in the NHL.

Chicago’s penalty kill also left a lot to be desired this season, ranking 27th in the league (78.1 percent). Phoenix boasted the 8th-ranked PK unit in the NHL this year (85.5 percent).

At the Dot

Chicago and Phoenix were nearly identical in faceoffs this year. The Blackhawks ranked 12th (50.6 percent), while the Coyotes ranked 15th (50.2 percent). However, the asterisk on the Blackhawks’ team number is that Toews, arguably the best faceoff man in the league, is a question mark for the series. If Toews can’t go, Jamal Mayers (56 percent) is the best Hawks’ faceoff man, with Dave Bolland and Marcus Kruger both coming in under 49 percent this season.

The Stars

We don’t need to dive too deeply into what the Blackhawks stars have done this year; if you’re at this site, you know that Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane have played exceptionally well in the absence of Toews. Chicago will come into the series with five 20-goal scorers (including Toews’ 29) and three players with at least 65 points (Kane, Sharp and Hossa).

The Coyotes were led by former-Blackhawk Radim Vrbata’s career-high 35 goals and ancient warrior Ray Whitney’s 77 points. But only three players on the Coyotes roster (Vrbata, Whitney and captain Shane Doan) had more than 43 points this year. It’s worth noting that Viktor Stalberg scored as many goals this year – 22 – as Doan. Phoenix has the second-oldest team in the Western Conference playoffs (behind Detroit).

In Net

There’s really no way to sugarcoat this: the Coyotes have the advantage between the pipes. Mike Smith has emerged as a darkhorse candidate for Vezina consideration down the stretch, posting a .930 save percentage and eight shutouts this season (three of which came consecutively in the last two weeks) this season.

However, Corey Crawford’s season-long numbers aren’t as strong as his recent play. Since March 1, Crawford has an 8-1-2 record with a .921 save percentage and 1.85 goals against average in 11 appearances.

What Does It Mean

Phoenix has the home ice advantage, but the Coyotes were tied with the Kings for the fewest home wins – 22 – of the eight playoff teams in the Conference. The Blackhawks won 27 games at the United Center; only St. Louis and Detroit had more home victories among the eight remaining teams in the West.

Chicago will have to win a game in Phoenix to advance (obviously), but that is certainly possible. The Blackhawks have only lost one road game that didn’t end in a shootout since the trade deadline, and will need to continue that excellent play to see the second round.

Prediction: Blackhawks in six (with or without Toews)

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16 Responses to Blackhawks-Coyotes Playoff Preview

  1. Melissa says:

    The Coyotes haven’t played the Hawks since before the trade deadline. They have not seen us with our best hockey and this is without Toews. They will obviously have to work hard, but the Coyotes are in for a rude wake up if they think this is the same Hawks team they played before. GO HAWKS!!!! BRING ON THE PLAYOFFS!!!

  2. Dave says:

    I’ve never been one that what happens in the regular season carries over to the post season. Not always, anyhow. Boston won the season series from Montreal 6-2 in 1983-84, but the Habs swept the Bruins thanks to a hot Steve Penney. and the Hawks had a 5-2-1 head to head record vs the North Stars in 1990-91. Yet, Minny won that series in 6. I’ve always thought that anything can happen in the post season. It all depends on who has the hot goalie.

  3. Glenn says:

    Phoenix is like Nashville lite. Very good goalie and well disciplined system. Like Nashville, there are no megastars – just a roster full of players who know their roles, play hard and the sum is greater than the parts.

    Smith is playing other-worldly lately and if that continues it will be very tough, especially if the Hawk’s PP remains impotent. But, I still believe that if the Hawks and Coyotes both play their best game – the Hawks win.

  4. pete says:

    Glenn Nashville has stars i.e Weber, Suter and some other very good players like Radulov. Phoenix has a good goalie and a couple of good player in Doan and Vrbata. We are much better playing Phoenix in my opinion. If we have Toews and Bolland at full strength and Crawford plays well we should take them in 5 or worst case 6.

  5. Brad Stevenson says:

    This is one of the teams that Patrick Kane disappears against…and with or without Toews, we can’t have that…As one of the highest paid, and most visible players in the league, Patrick Kane just finished his 5th NHL season, and had his LOWEST total yet…

    Kane only had 43 assists this year, a year in which he played Centre (a better playmaking spot), and on a team that scored the 2nd most goals in the western conference…plus it took Kane having a late season flourish just to reach 20 goals…

    People, wake up…stop being sheeple…We are paying Pat Kane $6 million a year…this is why we only got Johnny Odouya at the trade deadline…he is a major reason why we have a defensive issue on this team and a major reason why we haven’t addressed it properly…Patrick Kane has to step up and start earning his money…tell me that we didn’t just spend $6 mil on a .75 point per game guy who sits at the centre line waiting for breakaway passes??? On a team that has defensive issues???

    Say what you want about Phoenix, they are a quality team, with quality players and excellent coaching…for us to beat them when need to play well as a team, be defensive minded, and have our star players play their best hockey…and with Tazer on the sidelines this means Patrick Kane, FRONT AND CENTRE!!!

  6. Kyle says:

    @brad

    Kane didn’t do enough for you down the stretch?

  7. Rob says:

    Brad, if Kane hadn’t stepped up like he did after Toews went out, this team would have probably missed the playoffs. Patrick Kane had a fine season. I predict he’ll continue to shine in the playoffs.

  8. McKay says:

    Our first Kane is Over Rated post in quite some time. That only took zero playoff games.
    Thanks for that, Brad.

    Only one way to get to a streaky goaltender… Crash the net hard and rattle his cage.

  9. Brad Stevenson says:

    You are right McKay, if the Hawks want to score against Phoenix, they need to crash the net…

    As for the others…be OBJECTIVE…I am a Hawks fan (38 years), just like you…so I am a Patrick Kane fan as well, but we have to be fair…Kane stepped up during the last part of the season, but a 1/5 of the season, DOES NOT MAKE A SEASON…Pat Kane makes $6 million a year…he is a cog in our payroll, so he has to produce…in 5 years he still hasn’t put up Superstar numbers, and yet we pay him superstar dollars…

    If Kane was making $3 million a year, we wouldn’t be having this conversation…so listen to what I am saying, before you run off to make your judgements…and the fact remains, we need Pat Kane to step up if he are going anywhere in the playoffs…and if that means he needs to crash the net, then he had better tighten up his chin strap!

  10. Melissa says:

    @ Brad
    Yeah the first half of the season was disappointing, but since Toews got injured he has been phenomenal. I don’t know how much more you can expect from him. If he keeps playing like he has sice Toews left no worries. It’s not just about points anymore for him. He has stepped up and become a leader and his offensive production has increased down the stretch.

  11. Tom Jaremka says:

    Brad has a few good points, as usual. Myself, I have to take the money out of the equation with Kaner. The Hawks offered a boat load of money and he took it, so God Bless ‘em!! He has been better of late, but it took him alot of the season to get going. I think Kaner had a wrist injury at the beginning of this year. I remember talking to an ex-NHL player and he told me it took him 14 months to get over a serious wrist injury. It’s possible that Kaner is just starting to feel better.

    The problem we have with Phoenix is that they do everything that the Hawks hate to do. They play a very tight checking, low scoring, “keep it on the boards”, game. They are NOT fancy. They are very patient, too. They’ll wait for you to make a mistake and then capitalize on it. They win most close games because their goaltending is very good, also.

    The Hawks have to use their speed and score first. The Coyotes really only have 2 D-men who can skate. We need to dump the puck and make all their D-men turn their backs and skate. On the other hand, we have 5 D-men who can skate and move the puck and we can beat most of their forwards to pucks in our own end. Our forwards are quicker through the neutral zone and we can really put pressure on their “D”.

    Can Crawford play well enough to win the series? Usually, Crawford plays as well as the Hawks play. Mike Smith is a good goalie, but until he wins a cup, I’m not proclaiming him Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur. Every goalie has a weakness and you can’t stop what you can’t see.

    We need to do these three things to win this series in (7) or less games:
    1. Protect our goalie.
    2. Dominate the neutral zone.
    3. Crash their net heavily.

    Forget the regular season. The playoffs are where you separate the men from the boys. Hawks in 6!!

  12. Borje Salming says:

    NOTE:
    The hawks losses to PHX.
    The first one was after the circus road trip at the UC complete trap game. The OTL was the 3rd game in 4 nights they played in STL 2 nights before. And the 3rd was a back to back after playing San Jose the night before.

    I see the Hawks moving on in 6 games.

  13. wall says:

    Hawks have had trouble w/ Yotes because Yotes can skate well and are persistent on the boards… not real physical but tight checking (which frustrates Kane) and patient… but like the Oilers (who Hawks can’t beat) they are quick!!!

    Tom, respect your thoughts, but Kane’s issue (until last 1/5 season) hasn’t been wrist/shooting… it has been skating/competing/and taking body to make play!
    Which is why Brad and I have been tough on him most of year.

    Lastly, my crazy idea is putting Toews on 4th line which gives Hawks legitimate 4- 2nd lines (if and when Saad joins Hawks/Toews) if Hawks are still in playoffs. As much as I have hated Bruno… he has been somewhat effective w/Kane/Hoss. And Hawks have great scoring balance now.

    Also, Q can get Toews his minutes by PP/PK w/4th line. Sounds crazy, but some people thought I was “HIGH” when I suggested calling up Shaw, Hayes, and Olsen!

  14. beachpig says:

    I’ll take Kane and his 6 Shootout goals, 4 of which were game deciding..since no one else is even close…Toews had 3. Most had 0. Those goals and points were very important!

  15. Steve says:

    Hawks in 6.

    We are playing the style that it is going to take. I agree, 88 has to keep playing as he is now.

    With all the cruddy moves Jr. made, we don’t have a lot of room for error. Tab always says, what would you do. One answer is no Frolik OR brunette and sign Ryder when he came out of boston. THAT is something they could have fit and done.

    I had Smith in a pool last year, until he got dropped. He was the same guy in tampa as he is in Phoenix. He can thank Dave Tippett for any bucks he gets on his next contract. I think we have the better G by far. They are way better at making their G look better. I think Smith is WAY WAY WAY WAY over rated. He has the worst SV% of a starting G last year. That doesn’t change in a season does it?

    Go hawks

  16. Angela Pinnello says:

    Hawks Rock in the Play-offs especially on the Road!!!! Coyotes will be circling Toews like a piece of meat if he skates – that’s for sure… We just have to CHECK more and not take anyone’s crap… Cover that Net the way it should be covered to help Crawford out… We should wrap things up and then on to the next series… The only advantage Coyotes have is that they are home… Hawks Rock on the ROAD during Playoffs!!! We certainly have to dominate the neutral zone!!!! Checking is key boys!!! Don’t take crap from anyone… “Let’s Go Blackhawks”!!!! We’re cheering you on in Chicago when that puck hits the ice @9:00 CST

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