Question 1: Good God, not the Capitals! The Caps are just too fast and too good. Even with the ’Hawks’ playoff experience, I’m not sure they could match up in a seven-game series. Sure, they’d win a few games, but they would be outplayed in the end.
I have no interest in Pittsburgh; Sidney Crosby and their ugly uniforms make me cringe. The Rangers always choke in the playoffs, and the only players that really intrigue me are the goalies (Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta). Montreal would be fun in that they’re also an Original Six team. And who wouldn’t want to watch the Andrew Shaw shenanigans?
But the team I’d really like to see the Chicago Blackhawks play would be the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets remind me of the Chicago Blackhawks team that won the Cup in 2010. They are young and fast, and they have so much talent. They’re too naïve to even understand the pressures of the playoffs, so they have nothing to lose. Except perhaps Brandon Saad.
Let’s face it, fans. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to watch Saad up close and personal for a seven-game series? And then there’s head coach John Tortorella. Heck, the press conferences alone would be high entertainment.
But most importantly, even with all the assets listed above, I still think the ’Hawks can beat Columbus.
Question 2: Oh boy, that’s a tough one. In my opinion, it’s a toss-up between Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Hossa and then Toews are currently fourth and fifth on the team among forwards in points (behind Kane, Panarin and then Anisimov). Unless something drastically changes, these two will continue to be on the first line together, so they will have plenty of opportunities to put up points.
Let’s also remember the question asked how many points will be scored, not goals. Chances are, if Toews scores, it could easily be assisted by Hossa, and vice versa. This is a win-win for everyone. Hossa has had a resurgence this season, while Toews has struggled.
With that being said, I foresee Hossa slowing down a bit, while Toews will get hot. Shoot, Toews has been working so hard and getting so many chances. It’s going to pay off eventually. In the end, I think Toews will finish off the season strong, just behind the trio of Kane, Panarin and Anisimov. Heck, he might even finish in front of one or two of them. And Hossa won’t be too far behind.
Question 1: The New York Rangers. Alain Vigneault‘s bunch just cannot play defense at the rate necessary to succeed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If they add multiple solid options to their defense at the trade deadline — nearly impossible unless they mortgage their entire future on this season — then I might change my mind.
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Sure, the Rangers have plenty of weapons to stop on offense. But wouldn’t that just be part of the fun in facing this team? Plus, one of those weapons is Kevin Hayes (certainly not a Blackhawks favorite), while another is Rick Nash (also not a Blackhawks favorite).
Henrik Lundqvist has had a really off year in net, and he hasn’t always brought his A-game to the postseason. I don’t think Antti Raanta is like Antti Niemi, either. With a lackluster defense in front of them, the Blackhawks should be able to compete with New York’s staggering offense.
It’d be a six-game series minimum, but it’d be highlight entertaining with plenty of storylines.
Question 2: Probably Duncan Keith. The fact the guy has two goals on the season and is still fourth on the team in points is absurd. He has a shooting percentage of 2.0, while his career mark, though not amazing, is more than double that at 4.7.
So Keith is due for some more puck luck when he shoots it. Add into that him constantly being out there with the top two lines, which produce just about all of Chicago’s points, and there’s little doubt the assists will keep rolling in.
So I like Keith to finish with the most points among the Blackhawks outside the Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line. He’ll probably wind up with more than Anisimov, too. And I wouldn’t totally be stunned if we can say the same for Marian Hossa.