In the first round, I didn't predict either of these teams correctly, but for very different reasons. I thought the Wild could have won at least two games and perhaps a third, but after they lost their starting goalie in the warmup all bets were off. They put up the best fight they could given the circumstances and who knows if a healthy Backstrom would have made a difference or not. For the Wings, Datsyuk and Zetterberg stepped up in the clutch moments and outperformed the big guns on Anaheim. Given the depth on the Ducks roster, there is no excuse for letting Detroit win that series.
Now we have an original six match-up and this is where Detroit's cinderella season comes to an abrupt end.
Unlike the Ducks, the Hawks have big name players who actually perform in the clutch. Toews, Hossa, Sharp, and Kane is as good as it gets in hockey. But the fun doesn't stop there. They now have a dynamic rookie in Saad added to the mix, and proven playoff performers like Stalberg, Bickell, and Shaw in their ranks.
Yet, surprisingly their best two-way line of Saad, Toews, and Hossa weren't matched up against the Wild's best competition in round one. Instead they were used primarily in an offensive role. That will change this round as they will either face off with Datsyuk's or Zetterberg's line. Either way it will be a mismatch.
No offense to Detroit, but the days when Cleary, Bertuzzi, and Franzen put fear into the opponent are long gone. Instead, the Wings rely more on youth - Filppula, Abdelkader, Brunner, and Nyquist. Can they step up and go toe to toe with the Hawks?
The simple answer is, no. The big mismatch in this series is on the blueline.
If there was one reason why I bet against Detroit in round one, it was because of their defense. Lidstrom is enjoying the quiet life somewhere in Sweden, and the Wings are now relying on a bunch of second tier players to secure the back end. Kronwall and Ericsson are solid, but it gets very dicey after that. Kindle, Smith, Quincey, and Colaiacovo are very inconsistent players. Collectively, this group gives Wings fans nightmares on a game to game basis.
The Hawks have no such problems. They are anchored by some of the best in the business with Keith, Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson. Oduya is very underrated and Hawks management consider him a steal when they snatched him from Winnipeg. Leddy and Rozsival round out an impressive group. Big advantage, Hawks.
There are two wild card factors in this series that could alter how things shake out. First is the goaltending. Both Howard and Crawford shutup the critics in round one with solid victories, but the questions are not going to stop there. What do they have for an encore? As we saw with Pittsburgh, it doesn't matter how great your lineup is if you don't have someone reliable between the pipes. If this series goes sideways for Chicago, it will be due to problems in net.
The other big factor is rest. Are the Wings spent? They had to grind out a seven game series and travel three time zones to get it done. Chicago never left their time zone and wrapped things up in five games. This is a huge advantage for the Hawks.
The question for bettors is whether or not there is any value on the favorites. Right now the sportsbooks are placing the Hawks between a game and a half and two game favorites. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not Detroit can win three games? I'm willing to bet against that happening. We have to pay a bit of extra juice to get the Hawks at -1.5, but I think it's worth the price. There are too many chips stacked against Detroit and this should be finished in six games or less.
Prediction: Chicago -1.5 games for the series (-133).