Western Conference Quarterfinals:
#3 Phoenix Coyotes vs #6 Chicago Blackhawks
Phoenix has never won a playoff series. Last year, they failed to win a single playoff game, getting swept by Detroit in the first round. But they allowed their goalie, Ilya Bryzgalov, to sign with Philadelphia, the eventual destination of all goalies who struggle in the playoffs, and have turned instead to the goaltending of Mike Smith.
Smith has put up stellar numbers all year, and now in Phoenix “Mike Smith” is synonymous with “shutdown goalie” rather than being synonymous with “name his teammates use when they want to check in to motels anonymously”.
The Phoenix roster is a good blend of youth and experience, and also boasts one of my favorite names in the NHL, Kyle Chipchura. Every time I hear his name, it makes me want a chocolate chip churro, which, sadly, doesn’t exist yet.
The Blackhawks are looking to rebound after a first-round exit in last year’s playoffs. Team captain Jonathan Toews has battled concussions this season, and may not play when the series starts. He probably would have been cleared to play sooner if one of the team’s baseline tests wasn’t “How do you spell ‘Dustin Byfuglien’?”
The Hawks and Coyotes have the two worst power plays of any playoff team, so look for each team to take penalties on purpose.
90210 alert: The Blackhawks’ roster includes three Brandons and one Dylan. Start growing those playoff sideburns, boys!
Coyotes in 7.