Analysis

Chicago Blackhawks Roundtable: Wild-Card Teams And ‘D’ Pairings

By Colin Likas
Feb 11, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; St-Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (91) plays the puck during the third period of the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 11, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; St-Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (91) plays the puck during the third period of the game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /
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Greg Bradshaw

Question 1: This is definitely a tough prediction here, but I’m going to stick with Calgary earning the first wild card spot and the L.A. Kings grabbing the second.

The Flames have really been on fire (pun intended), riding a seven-game win streak, and the offense has been coming in bunches.

While St. Louis is the more talented team between themselves and the Kings, I think the Blues are unraveling. The Kings made the deadline deal for Ben Bishop and now have two very solid goaltenders. Mix that with Jeff Carter‘s incredible season and I would say this could very well be the second Wild Card.

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I still don’t think Winnipeg sneaking in is out of the question, which could really give teams fits. Given their speed, size and scoring ability, the Jets could make for a difficult matchup for any Western Conference playoff team.

Question 2: The Blackhawks are very much loaded with defensemen which bodes well for the third pairing situation. I’m going to say the pairing of Brian Campbell and Michal Rozsival stays, but is definitely not permanent.

Rozsival, despite his age and lack of speed, has been very reliable for the ‘Hawks during his recent stretch of playing time. His experience is the biggest factor here, and Coach Q really has a thing for him despite any hiccups he may make.

He will eventually go back to his old ways, and I see him eventually being benched, but the ‘Hawks need to ride with him while he’s hot.

Soupy is a fan favorite and was the hero of Saturday’s game in Nashville. Although he has had his struggles this year, he seems to really be finding his game during the ‘Hawks’ surge of seven straight wins.

Chicago Blackhawks

George Clifford

Question 1: The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings will take first and second wild card slots, respectively. The Calgary Flames are on fire and likely to overtake Anaheim and claim third place in the Pacific Division, while Nashville will cruise to third in the Central.

It’ll be tight, but the Ducks and Kings should outpace the fading St. Louis Blues, who will finish the season below .500. The Winnipeg Jets are my long-odds pick to creep pass the Kings who, like the Blues, are struggling to score goals.

Question 2: Michal Kempny on the left side and Brian Campbell on the right. Kempny has developed into a strong,dependable defenseman who likes to use his big shot and jump into the offensive zone. He’s an aggressive skater, but has learned to avoid taking unnecessary penalties. Since early February, Kempny has the fewest giveaways of any active ‘Hawks blueliner, and trails only Brent Seabrook in blocked shots.

Although he’d be playing on his off-side with Kempny, Campbell is a far better choice than either Trevor van Riemsdyk or Michal Rozsival, who each commit way too many costly turnovers. Soupy also brings to the pairing a healthy offensive upside and invaluable veteran presence.

What about Gustav Forsling? Sure, he needs to gain strength and power to physically compete in today’s NHL, but he’s got great vision and hockey sense to complement his impressive skills. I feel Forsling is a better talent right now than either TVR or Rozsival.

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