Blackhawks return to Western Conference Finals

For the second straight year, the Chicago Blackhawks have eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in six games during the second round of the playoffs and once again make their way to the Western Conference Finals. Awaiting their arrival is the San Jose Sharks who have been resting and waiting since rolling the Winged Wheels to the curb last weekend.

Brent Sopel congratulates goalie Antti Niemi after the Blackhawks eliminated Vancouver in game six Tuesday night (AP PhotoTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Brent Sopel congratulates goalie Antti Niemi after the Blackhawks eliminated Vancouver in game six Tuesday night (AP PhotoTHE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

This matchup pits the top-two seeds out west. Oddly enough…it’s still possible that the 7th and 8th seeds in the east could meet in the ECF.

The Sharks will be making their first trip to the WCF since 2004 when they were beaten by the Calgary Flames 4 games to 2. Last year the Red Wings did away with the Hawks in five games.

San Jose finished the season with a record of 51-20-11 for 113 to win the Pacific Division while Chicago went 52-22-8 for 112 points winning the Central. The Blackhawks scored seven more goals during the regular season than did San Jose…they also allowed six fewer goals.

As for their regular season matchups, Chicago took 3 of the 4 games played between the two…twice in overtime. The Blackhawks won a 4-3 overtime game on November 15 in Chicago, then traveled to San Jose ten days later to crush the Sharks 7-2. The Sharks returned to the windy city to take a 3-2 regulation decision just before Christmas and on January 28 the Hawks traveled back to California to win 4-3 in OT.

Who wins Western Conference Finals?

  • #1 San Jose Sharks (22%, 39 Votes)
  • #2 Chicago Blackhawks (78%, 135 Votes)

Total Voters: 175

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If I’m not mistaken…I believe this is the first ever matchup between the two teams during the playoffs.

As a team, the Sharks are scoring goals at a rate of 3.03 per game in the playoffs and allowing 2.54 GA/G, which is second only to Philadelphia’s 2.50. Their power play is 21.6 % effective while they’ve been killing off 21.6% of the penalties they face. Chicago’s offense is netting 3.33 goals per game…tied with Pittsburgh for the most of all remaining teams…and the Blackhawks are surrendering 2.75 GA/G. They have scored on 19.3% of their man advantages and their PK is successful 84.2% of the time thus far.

San Jose’s Evgeni Nabokov is 8-3 after the first two rounds with a 2.43 GAA, .907 SV% and one shutout. On the other end of the ice will be Chicago’s Antti Niemi who is now 8-4 with a 2.57 GAA, .909 SV% and 2 SO.

Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks’ attack with 9 goals and 6 assists. He’s launched 52 shots on goal…tied with Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin…and is a +7 in the post-season. Joe Thornton has 3 goals and 8 assists while Dany Heatley has 2 goals and 9 assists.

For the second consecutive year, Roberto Luongo and the Canucks depart the playoffs by losing to Chicago in the second round (AP Photo/The Canadian Press - Jonathan Hayward)

For the second consecutive year, Roberto Luongo and the Canucks depart the playoffs by losing to Chicago in the second round (AP Photo/The Canadian Press - Jonathan Hayward)

Jonathan Toews now has 20 overall points, 6 goals and 14 assists, and leads all skaters in the playoffs. Patrick Kane scored his seventh of the post-season in Chicago’s 5-1 clincher in Vancouver Tuesday night and he now has 15 overall points. Patrick Sharp has 14 points…5 goals and 9 assists.

So…who do you like to make it out of the west to the Stanley Cup Finals? This is a tough one for me, but going into the playoffs I predicted the Blackhawks would make it there… so I’m gonna stick with that pick, saying they will survive the Sharks in seven very entertaining games.

We could learn the two Eastern Conference finalists tonight. Game seven between Montreal and Pittsburgh will decide that exciting series while Boston looks to do away with Philly in their game six. The Flyers, on the other hand, are trying to continue their comeback bid after falling into a 3-0 hole to the Bruins.

Personally, I would love to see Philadelphia extend the series…if for no other reason than to simply provide another evening of playoff action for our viewing pleasure.

Wolves Eliminated in Overtime of Game Seven

The Chicago Wolves we not able to match what the NHL team in Chicago did Tuesday night, losing in overtime 6-5 to the Texas Stars. This despite holding leads of 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4.

Spencer Machacek scored twice and Jason Krog, Brett Sterling and Tim Stapleton each added a goal for the Wolves. Sterling also added an assist on Krog’s goal, which put Chicago up by a goal with 10:15 remaining in the third.

Drew MacIntyre allowed an unassisted goal to Jamie Benn 4:57 into the overtime period after the Stars’ forward won the puck on the boards and snapped off a wrister that ended the season for the Thrashers’ AHL affiliate.

Texas will now advance to the AHL Western Conference Finals against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

57 comments Add your comment

R. Stroz

May 12th, 2010
9:10 am

Red Light

May 12th, 2010
9:14 am

That’s the same Hamilton Bulldogs who lost their top defenseman, PK Subban, to the Canadiens a few weeks ago. Once 8th on the defensive depth chart, Subban is now playing in the top 2 or 4 for the Habs.

Anyone still think Patrick Sharp is available to any team via trade. Nah, me niether!

World Be Free

May 12th, 2010
9:31 am

Looks like Wolves have the same issue as the Thrashers-the inability to hold a lead in any game. Subban and the Habs-maybe Kulda will do the same in Atlanta next season.

R-L//no Sharp or Buff, maybe Versteeg though he’s playing pretty good right now too. All depends if Chicago wins the Cup; if they don’t win I am certain they will blame goaltending. If they want to upgrade in goal, they will need to dump salary. Maybe Thomas to Chicago and Versteeg back to Boston in return, since that is where he came from? BOS will not want Thomas in the Eastern Conference, so CHI is a possible destination.

How about Harding in Minnesota? He neesds to get out of Minny and his value is less than it was last season. Josh Harding to ATL?

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2010
9:51 am

Luongo? Over-rated, clap clap, clap clap clap.

Of course Sharp could be traded. If Gretz can be traded, anyone can, and Chicago is going to have to re-tool especially after my Sharks and Nabokov take out Chicago and their inferior goaltending.

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2010
10:04 am

Holy Cap Catastophe, Batman. I never looked at the Hawks cap issue too closely for next year, but they have to make serious moves this summer. Look at the what they have: http://www.nhlnumbers.com/overview.php?team=CHI&season=0910

Only 9 forwards, 5 dmen, 1 goalie signed for next year and already at a $57.5m cap hit and $62.9m in salary! And Niemi is due a big raise. They have to move Huet, no? You’d think Campbell due to his $7m cap hit and seeint how they owe Keith $8m starting next year, can’t have two dmen on the same squad making that much. But doesn’t Campbell have a NTC? They owe Toews and Kane $6.5m each next year! and Hossa $7.9m? Does Hossa have a NTC? They may have to move him. Crap, they have some serious juggling to do seeing those three big raises they have to Toews, Kane, and Keith beginning next year.

World Be Free

May 12th, 2010
10:20 am

Yeah the Hawks are in a real mess, thanks to Dale Tallon. I believe Campbell and Hossa has limited NTCs, though Hossa’s contract is long enough to be cap friendly. Nothing fiendly about their contract situation. The Hawks can demote Hewww-et and bury his contract in the minors.

Can Sharp be traded? Yes, but I think he’s too much part of their core to be moved-but you never know. That 1st round pick (#24) looks very tempting. Easy for the Hawks to save face with their fans if they can say they dumped salary AND got a #1 pick.

J-F what’s your thoughts on Josh Harding?

Smoothie

May 12th, 2010
10:29 am

Joe – I have been high-lighting the Hawks cap woes for months now on this blog. I cannot believe you are now just realizing what severe trouble they are in thanks to the RFA snafu last summer combined with the 3 big contracts for their studs Toews, Kane and Keith.

Chicago may be lucky if they don’t have to trade both Versteeg and Sharp or Big Buff. Unless they suit up 4 or 5 rookies from Rockford all making $500 – 850 K, there’s no way they can ice a roster without making some seriously calculated moves. Our 24th pick combined with a young prospect such as Vishnevskiy should look very attractive to them.

R. Stroz (Outside Consultant from Office Space)

May 12th, 2010
10:56 am

This Smoothie guy, he’s real management material.

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2010
11:27 am

A Cup win for Chicago will go a long way in blowing up their roster this summer.

kracker

May 12th, 2010
11:30 am

Hey! I didn’t get a ranallo alert! I thought it was awfully quiet on the last blog :)

Red Light

May 12th, 2010
11:34 am

There’s no question that the Campbell and Huet contracts are a liability in Chicago, and those contracts are Tallon’s responsibility (Dudley have anything to do with them?), and Boland, Sharp, Hossa, Versteeg, Byfuglien, Seabrook, Sopel also were his responsibility. Kane, Toews and Keith were re-upped during the season by the current regime, adding a total cap hit of $18.475 million for those players.

Ladd, Eager, Fraser, Bickell, Hjalmarsson, Hendry and Niemi also are RFA and need to be re-signed or dealt.

IMO, they will deal either Bolland and/or Versteeg, and probably two of the RFAs. Burish, Madden and Boynton are gone. If they can dump Huet and Campbell (good luck) then they’ll have more flexibility.

Josh Harding will be 26 in June and has just 83 NHL games under his belt with a salary of $1.1 million. He is an RFA and must be signed for $1.2 million for a qualifying offer. If Khodobin is ready to assume the back-up role, he’d be a good pick-up for someone, but can he be a No. 1 or just a back-up. Haven’t seen enough of him to know that definitively.

Alan R.

May 12th, 2010
11:42 am

The thing is, Stroz, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.

World Be Free

May 12th, 2010
11:53 am

Another possible coaching candidate?

Alain Vigneault is rumored out of Vancouver.
I have always liked him as a coach, got a bad deal in Montreal now appears the same thing may happen in Vancouver.

Alan R.

May 12th, 2010
11:55 am

I wouldn’t be opposed to having Alain Vigneault come in. He had some good success in Vancouver.

Smoothie

May 12th, 2010
12:06 pm

Let’s just pray to God that the next coach ISN’T Don Lever whose Wolves’ team held leads as well as Anderson’s Thrashers. The blueline was supposed to be their main attribute and strength but it looks like Don leaned too heavily on them and his goaltender in surrendering 50+ shots and 6 goals in an OT 6-5 loss to the Texas Stars in Game 7 of the conference semis. Apparently the early 2-0 and 4-2 leads were too much strain for their blueliners to bear. Talk about choke jobs!

ChippersLoveChild

May 12th, 2010
12:21 pm

Hossa or Heatley.. Hossa or Heatley… ugh.. I’ll go with the lesser of two evils and pull for the Blackhawks.

Smoothie

May 12th, 2010
12:41 pm

Red Light – the other problem the Hawks have at this point is the absence of any bonus cushion for their cap. With the extension contracts kicking in for the Big 3, they lose a $4.26 M bonus cushion.

First and foremost, they must re-sign their two RFA D-men, Hendry and Hjalmarsson, which will cost them at minimum $66k with the required 5% raise. I reckon they’ll get about 25% apiece to keep them happy as that will only cost $333k. Hell, 50% would only cost $660k or so and they would behoove themselves if they locked up Hjalmarsson for at least 3 years. I would expect a $750k investment yearly for those two.

With respect to Niemi, it may all depend on whether they win a Cup or not. If they win a Cup this year, they may try to sell Niemi’s rights to the highest bidder for a 1st round pick at the draft. Huet’s albatross of a contract is next to impossible to move and unless a big-spending team like Philly comes calling, they will be on the hook for Huet and his $5.625 M per season.

Assuming they tender Niemi a 1 year deal (he’s 25 so he’s kind of stuck for two years) worth $2.25 – $2.5 M to avoid arbitration, they will be spending at least $3 M to re-up 3 very key RFA’s. Adding that to the bottom line and they are already tipping the Cap at $60.57 M for 17 players. They will need to replace 2 bottom line UFA forwards in Madden and Burish. Even if they utilize Skille and Bickell to do so, they would need to spend at least another $100k in tendering those two.

Let’s say they spend another $200-300k on Skille and Bickell. The total tab pushes very close to $61 M before they can even think about re-signing or replacing RFA’s Andrew Ladd ($1.65M), Ben Eager ($.965M) and Colin Fraser ($700k). All three should be likely trade targets for GM’s looking to bolster their 3rd and 4th lines. One of those teams should be ATL as CHI will need to shed at least one player in the $3-4 M range along with Andrew Ladd, in all likelihood, to sneak under the cap.

Hey Duds, how about trying to trade our 24th pick, Ivan Vishnevskiy, Chris Carozzi and Eric O’Dell to the Hawks for Patrick Sharp and the rights to Andrew Ladd?

Dwayne

May 12th, 2010
12:45 pm

R. Stroz (Outside Consultant from Office Space): I see where you been missing a lot of work
Alan R.: I really can’t say I’ve been missing it. :-)

Snoman

May 12th, 2010
12:53 pm

I gotta agree – let’s see the Blackhawks make it three bridesmaid appearances in a row for MaryAnn Hossa.

R. Stroz

May 12th, 2010
12:59 pm

How do you entertain an idiot?

Um Don, where’s your red stapler.

Alan R.

May 12th, 2010
1:04 pm

Dwayne: …and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…

Rawhide

May 12th, 2010
1:26 pm

R. Stroz and Alan R. – I could just swear all these comments are from some movie I’ve seen before. But I don’t want to …ahem…jump to conclusions.

Spud Webb

May 12th, 2010
1:32 pm

God would I love this…Hey Duds, how about trying to trade our 24th pick, Ivan Vishnevskiy, Chris Carozzi and Eric O’Dell to the Hawks for Patrick Sharp and the rights to Andrew Ladd?

Kari, 3 years 10 million. WOW.
Hey, we gonna do a get together at TJ’s soon Bill? Or have I missed the last one?

World Be Free

May 12th, 2010
1:33 pm

Smoothie-nice trade proposal. The numbers would indicate that the Hawks are hosed come this summer. They will need some relief and we’re just the people to give it to them! Like Ben Eager-you never have enough grit and he can score too.

I don’t see Lever being a head coaching candidate. He’s been an assistant for so long, must be something to prevent him from being H-C material. Ramsay or Torchetti, I would be happy with either.

Alan R.

May 12th, 2010
1:33 pm

Bill: It was a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor… and would have different CONCLUSIONS written on it that you could JUMP TO.

;)

Rawhide

May 12th, 2010
1:50 pm

Bill: It was a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor… and would have different CONCLUSIONS written on it that you could JUMP TO.

That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life, Tom…er, I mean…Alan.

Red Light

May 12th, 2010
2:18 pm

Vigneault led the Canucks to (3) 100-point seasons and a 17-17 playoff record in those three years. Not getting past the second round in his four career playoff years (1 in MTL) could be his undoing. Luongo joins a long list of goalies who can’t win in the playoffs. As one of the most highly compensated, that means his is overrated.

MVBs (Most Valuable Blackhawks) in order of keepability
Toews
Keith
Kane
Hossa
Sharp
Seabrook
Byfuglien
Hjalmarsson

Translated: No deal Smoothie. You’ve got to give up more than that!

Russ

May 12th, 2010
2:18 pm

Here is TSN’s off-season gameplan for the Thrashers for what it’s worth.

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=321351

Smoothie

May 12th, 2010
2:32 pm

Red Light – such as what? They don’t have any money to pay for playable assets. If a # 1 pick and a top prospect and a couple other potential prospects from a Top 7 prospect team isn’t enough, where do you think they’ll get more than that?

There are only 8 teams with enough / as much or more Cap space as ATL: COL (too many young players who will get raises)
DAL (self-imposed cap of upper 40 millions)
STL (several young players and losing an investor)
TBL (gotta pay Stamkos, Hedman and get a damn goalie)
CLB, NSH, PHX (self-imposed or even league-imposed caps)
NYI (what prospects do they have?)

So who’s gonna rescue Chicago? Who’s gonna be their knight in shining armor? Why not their former employee who helped build their franchise?

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2010
2:49 pm

Lloyd, I know nothing about Harding so I asked my buddy up there who’s a huge Wild fan and he says “Josh is a great goalie. I think he’s a starter. He got hurt at the end of the season, but supposedly it’s a standard operation with no side effects.”

I’m with Smoothie, just say no to Lever. I’d place money on Torchetti being our guy

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2010
2:54 pm

“Why not their former employee who helped build their franchise?”

Yep, and as you point out, Chicago can’t take salary back, they’ll want picks and prospects. Sharp is the guy we have to target off that squad. Shoot, does anyone want Huet here at that money? What if we took Sharp and Huet and gave them just beans back like NJs 1st and a prospect? That’d clear $10m off their books, and give us a starter for a couple years. Problem is, do I want Huet? I think I’d do that deal to get Sharp and then go with Huet and Pavelec as backup for two years. Re-sign Kubina, bring up Machachek, and sign Frolov. Drop the puck.

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2010
2:59 pm

Or we could take Sharp and Campbell, let Kubina walk, and sign Frolov.

Frolov-Sharp-Antropov
Kane-Peverley-Bergfors

as your top forwards, whoever on the third and fourth, we have them coming out our ears and Campbell-Hainsey, Enstrom-Bogosian, Oduya-Kulda as your d, Huet-Pavs in goal

Drop the puck.

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2010
3:00 pm

sorry, you go cheap in goal on that last scenario, roll the dice on a middling UFA goalie that’s available, a Theodore or Harding type

Smoothie

May 12th, 2010
3:01 pm

Joe – you raise a good point. The team that steps up and agrees to take Huet off their roster may have some leverage in getting the asset of their choice such as Sharp should the return be good enough (e.g. a # 1 pick, perhaps a 2nd rounder and several prospects) from the suitor.

As good and integral to their success as Sharp is, they must think ahead and value their young pieces. Having the flexibility to keep Versteeg, Big Buff & Brouwer (RFAs following year) AND Ladd would serve them well if they desire to be a contender for more than the 2 to 3 years Sharp gives you in top line production.

Smoothie

May 12th, 2010
3:24 pm

Joe – why not go for the gusto and get Sharp & Huet? Yeah it’s a lot of money, but it’s not as though Huet hasn’t shown he can be a dominant #1 goalie. And without the pressure of MTL and with Pavelec pushing him, it might not be a bad idea for a year or two. And he’d have value as trade deadline bait in 2012 if Pavelec really comes on. Then you go and get a Seidenberg or Morrisson in UFA to round out your defense and as you say, drop the puck.

Alan R.

May 12th, 2010
3:32 pm

why not go for the gusto and get Sharp & Huet?

You covered it already, but Huet’s salary is an albatross. I daresay you won’t see any GM actively seek out Huet.

Smoothie

May 12th, 2010
3:43 pm

Alan – I know, I know…I wouldn’t do it. I’d rather take on Soupy’s albatross of a contract and bring in Dan Ellis to split time with / push Pavelec into stardom. Just screwin’ around with the possibilities to see if we could do it for less than $53 M and the answer is YES!

Anyway, speaking of star goalies (double entendre), this is sure to be a funny blog on Kari Lehtonen from Puck Daddy:

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Dallas-puts-faith-in-Kari-Lehtonen-Model-of-Goa?urn=nhl,240587

Tom

May 12th, 2010
4:10 pm

Imagine the Blackhawks trading Hossa to the Thrashers?

I am sure his agent negotiated the contract just so that situation did not occur again, but it would be funny in an Adams Family way.

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2010
4:13 pm

Have you ever considered Mike Bolton?

Why should I change MY name? He’s the one that sucks.

Red Light

May 12th, 2010
4:26 pm

Sharp himself is worth at least (2) No. 1 picks and I’d deal No. 8 and No. 24 for him in a minute.

Lee

May 12th, 2010
4:36 pm

GO BLACKHAWKS!!!!!!!

GaVaHokie

May 12th, 2010
4:44 pm

Sharp himself is worth at least (2) No. 1 picks and I’d deal No. 8 and No. 24 for him in a minute.

While I think we wouldn’t regret it?… I still feel it’s an overpayment. I’d feel a lot more comfortable with Versteeg thrown in.

It’s amazing how much this “fantasy” offer has been thrown out there on message boards… even Chicago fans have been offering it up.

Alan R.

May 12th, 2010
5:18 pm

Sharp himself is worth at least (2) No. 1 picks and I’d deal No. 8 and No. 24 for him in a minute.

Don’t overvalue him. He’s worth our #8, but it’s an overpayment to pass along our #24 unless we’re getting something else back.

John Anderson

May 12th, 2010
5:33 pm

I don’t care if they fire me either, because I told, I told Don that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don this too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…

Viking

May 12th, 2010
5:51 pm

International Hockey Surprises continues after the Olympics;

Kanada lost against Switzerland in World Championships 4-1. Stamkos got injured and Ryan Smyth broke his ankle earlier in the week.

USA lost against Finland by a goal made by Kapanen. USA lost earlier against Denmark (!!!!).

Czech Republic has lost against Norway (!!!!)

Sweden, Switzerland and Russia (including Kovy & Ovi) has not yet lost.

Red Light

May 12th, 2010
6:04 pm

Alan R: You know who RJ Umberger is right? He commanded a 1st (19th overall) and a 3rd round pick (67th overall) in exchange for Umberger and the 119th pick in the draft two years ago. Would you take Sharp over Umberger? Uh, yeah. Then, compare Umberger and Sharp’s stats, ages and plus/minus.

It’s not an overpayment.

World Be Free

May 12th, 2010
6:25 pm

Smoothie-thanks for mentioning Siedenberg, one of my favorites and a guy that should be available this summer. Not sure Boston has the space to keep him. He deserves a 3 year deal, if we don’t sign Gonchar.

Viking-thanks for the updates. NHL Network should have these games on TV. They need to get their act together.

Joe Friday-I think we need to consider HArding as a possible. Minny is short on picks and prospects, so I think we can pull this deal. Not sold on most of the UFA goalies, except Ellis. I know you like Nakabov, but I don’t see us spending $$$ on Nabakov.

Frolov wants $5M and he’s not worth it. If we sign a center, we need to sign one that can win faceoffs. Sign Malholtra-San Jose has too many other issues to worry about resigning Manny. He’s one of the best faceoff men in the league-replaces Jimmy.

Sharp is too close to UFA status to risk 2 — No. 1 picks on him.

Joe Friday

May 12th, 2010
6:43 pm

“Sharp is too close to UFA status to risk 2 — No. 1 picks on him.”

Yep.

Let’s go, Pens! I feel Malkin breaking out with a huge game tonight, Fluery matches Halak blow for blow

World Be Free

May 12th, 2010
8:13 pm

Habs 4 Pens 0
Whoda thunk it-I didn’t think Montreal could win one against Washington, now they are cruising to the conference finals

Alan R.

May 12th, 2010
8:32 pm

Red Light – WBF said it best. One pick or the other, but not both.