By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Hockey playoffs. The excitement. The glory. The sportsmanship.
The NHL postseason is a time when many viewers first seriously take in the game, much like the NCAA basketball tournament. As much as hardcore hockey fans hate it, a large portion of “fans” ignore much of the regular season and then don team sweaters come April.
So for those of you just starting to practice your “aboots” and “ehs” and wondering when Bye-FUG-lee-AN changed his name to OH-duh-yay (and to really irk the die-hards who know way more than I do), I give you the reasons the Chicago Blackhawks will defeat the Phoenix Coyotes (yes, they have a team. I know, weird, right?) and why they will not beat them in the series that starts Thursday night at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz.
First, let’s get the bad news out of the way.
WHY THE BLACKHAWKS WILL NOT BEAT THE COYOTES
- Team captain Jonathan Toews will probably suit up for the series, but he will be nowhere near 100%, having not appeared in a game since what feels like Thanksgiving. Also, as is the case with life after a concussion, the slightest ding to the head, twist of the neck, or even a medium-sized fart can re-aggravate the crippling symptoms. Hopefully Toews has avoided Mexican food while down in Arizona the past few days.
- Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is kinda, sorta really good. He’s stopped 190 of the last 192 shots he’s faced. That’s not a typo. He had three shutouts in his last five games. He has a playoff shutout under his belt in his career. He was named team MVP. He frightens me.
- The Coyotes are hot right now. They finished the regular season 4-1, and entering the playoffs with momentum can be a big advantage in the NHL maybe more so than in other sports.
- The Blackhawks power play this season became someone high in my hotness power rankings as a teenager, Nikki Cox. The Hawks rank 26th in the league in power play scoring after being fourth last season. The Coyotes gave up the third-least power play goals in the regular season. Not good for the Hawks.
- Much like the film series that bears his nickname, Corey “Crow” Crawford has been sketchy, weird, and at times downright fugly this season. He’s also a guy who can be mentally taken out of a game very quickly and is very hard on himself—that cannot happen in the playoffs.
Now the better news.
WHY THE BLACKHAWKS WILL BEAT THE COYOTES
- Mike Smith has a 1-1 career record in the playoffs, so he’s not exactly a savvy postseason veteran. Before joining the Coyotes, he was an average-at-best goalie in Tampa Bay and a backup the previous two seasons. While he seems to have figured things out this season, he’s no stranger to getting a beatdown.
- Corey Crawford is also pretty hot heading into the postseason. He finished the regular season on an 8-1-2 tear, giving up just one goal in five of those games. As much as his flaws may lie between the ears, winning tends to clear that stuff up, and a confident Crow would be the major reason the Hawks advance.
- Confidence is contagious, and having Toews back could be the best virus for the Hawks. Even a rusty Toews is better than no Toews at all, and his impact both on team morale and game play will be a boost to this team.
- The Hawks finished with more regular season points than the Coyotes, yet the Hawks were fourth in their division. Nobody seemed to want to win the Pacific, and the Central is definitely tougher.
- Phoenix has never won a playoff series since the franchise landed in the desert. They are also 0-3 in Game 7s, and there’s a good chance of one in this series.
- Somehow the Coyotes have a worse power play than the Blackhawks. Phoenix’s power play scoring ranked 29th in the NHL this season, so while the Hawks are not a dumb team (21st most penalty minutes in the league), getting sent to the box should not overly worry anybody.
- Coyotes fans suck. Most Arizona hockey fans are either transplants from colder climates who either still hold allegiance to their native teams unless they’re bad and the Coyotes are good or just take in hockey once in a while because it’s there. The Coyotes ranked dead last this season in attendance in the NHL—and that’s a team that won its freakin’ division (Blackhawks ranked first, by the way. Good job, people). The team was popular when it first moved to Phoenix and was making the playoffs, but fans abandoned it last decade during the embarrassing Wayne Gretzky affiliation. The team has been owned by the NHL since 2009 when it filed for bankruptcy and hasn’t been able to find a buyer since. Just one of many brilliant ideas by league commissioner Gary Bettman of letting the franchise move from Winnipeg to Phoenix (and now Glendale) has proved disastrous. Not having home ice advantage should not scare Chicago fans, especially since there should be a strong Hawks fan contingent in Phoenix.
So I see more reasons favoring the Blackhawks than the Coyotes, which with my luck might not bode very well. On paper this is a very close matchup and perhaps the one most likely to go the distance. Gun to my head, I have the Hawks winning in seven.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.