TCL Round 1 Staff Predictions: Phoenix Coyotes Vs. Chicago Blackhawks

( 3 ) PHOENIX COYOTES vs. ( 6 ) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The Phoenix Coyotes are still very much here, and they want to win. Fresh off their first division title ever, they must now battle a team not named the Detroit Red Wings in a playoff series for the first time in the post-lockout era. The Chicago Blackhawks, their opponent, finished strong with 101 points despite struggling for numerous stretches during the regular season, mainly because of inconsistent and sometimes inadequate goaltending. It didn't help that Jonathan Toews, their captain and arguably best player, missed more than twenty games with a concussion. He's back now, and is looking for glory.
 
 
This is a tough series to predict. On one hand, the Phoenix Coyotes are a team that keeps exceeding expectations. Dave Tippett has complete control over his hard-working, blue-collar group and Mike Smith, their number one goaltender, came out of nowhere to post Vezina-winning numbers. Of course, we all know regular season stats mean nothing come playoffs time, and Smith doesn't exactly have a lot of playoffs experience (3 games). On the other hand, the Blackhawks are simply too talented and stacked up front to even be compared with the offensively depleted Coyotes and have ton of Stanley Cup experience, so logic would dictate a Hawks win if their goaltenders can stop a few pucks.

Consensus: Blackhawks in 6.

Schedule:

Game 1: Thu. April 12 at 10:00PM in Phoenix
Game 2: Sat. April 14 at 10:00PM in Phoenix
Game 3: Mon. April 17 at 9:30PM in Chicago
Game 4: Thu. April 19 at 8:00PM in Chicago
Game 5: Sat. April 21 at 10:00PM in Phoenix (if necessary)
Game 6: Mon. April 23 TBD in Chicago (if necessary)
Game 7: Wed. April 25 TBD in Phoenix (if necessary)
*All Puckdrops are in Eastern Standard Time*
 
Genius or Madness: 
 
Bryan Wright - SWEEP, Blackhawks in 4:
The Coyotes have about as much business being in 3rd place in the Conference as the NHL has in having a team in Phoenix. While the Coyotes may have earned their playoff position, they didn't earn being the 3rd seed, and are outmatched in too many places to beat the Blackhawks. It won't help that there will be more Blackhawk fans than Coyote fans at all four games.
 

Previous Series: Never faced before in the playoffs.

Key Players:

Phoenix: 
-F Ray Whitney 82GP 24G 53A 77PTS +26
-F Radim Vrbata 77GP 35G 27A 62PTS +24
-D Keith Yandle 82GP 11G 32A 43PTS +5
-D Oliver Ekman-Larsson 82GP 13G 19A 32PTS +0

-G Mike Smith 67GP 2.21GAA .930SVP 8SO 38-18-10

Chicago:
-F Marian Hossa 81GP 29G 48A 77PTS +18
-F Patrick Sharp 74GP 33G 36A 69PTS +28
-F Jonathan Toews 59GP 29G 28A 57PTS +17
-D Duncan Keith 74GP 4G 36A 40PTS  +15

-G Corey Crawford 57GP .903SVP 2.72GAA 0SO 30-17-7

Key Injuries:
Phoenix: None     

Chicago: None.

Prax's Take:
Not only do the Phoenix Coyotes still have a team. Not only have the made the playoffs again­. Not only have they done it with a ragtag group of misfits and oddballs who are somehow okay with playing in Glendale Arizona, but they've managed to win the Pacific division as well. Did someone forget to tell these guys that it's okay to, you know, stop? We're already loading the bus to Kansas City or Seattle or whatever town the NHL eventually settles for. I want to say Chicago here, because it really should be obvious (they even have more points in 6th place than the Yotes have in 3rd), but nothing about the Coyotes has been obvious, and the Blackhawks have been sort of inconsistent. I'm going to go with an upset here, but the Hawks should put up a bit of a fight.
Prediction: Coyotes in 7
 
Around The Checking Line:
 
Kyle Busch:
The Coyotes have been to the playoffs for three straight years now, but don't expect a series win against Chicago. Even without Jonathan Toews, the Hawks have been lights out. The concern is goaltending (Corey Crawford/Ray Emery) but Phoenix no longer has Ilya Bryzgalov, they have Mike Smith, so goaltending is a wash. Chicago has the depth.
Prediction: Chicago in 7
 
Derrick Newman:
This is the year Phoenix makes it past the first round. With Mike Smith playign better than any goalie out there I think the Yotes will use that home ice advantage to take out the Hawks in the first round.
PredictionCoyotes in 6
 
Mark Trible:
Even without Jonathan Toews, the Hawks are still a team you don't want to face in the first round. Phoenix has been a nice story all season, but Chicago still had four more points-- that's not by mistake.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6
 
Nick Symon:
No matter what the situation is, the Coyotes just seem to get it done. Unfortunately playoff hockey is different and the Yotes just dont have that big guy up front to ride. The Blackhawks got things together towards the end of the season and finished just a point behind the Red Wings and three points behind the Preds. Jonathan Toews missed 23 games this season and looks like he will be ready for the playoffs. The Hawks goaltending is questionable but getting Toews back will be exactly what the Hawks need to get them past the Coyotes. This could also setup another epic Canucks-Hawks series in the second round.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6
 
Evan Pivnick:
I'd love to be wrong for this prediction, don't get me wrong. If Mike Smith is on fire like he was at certain points of the season, the Coyotes might have a chance, but the Hawks are too strong of a team.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6
 
John Link:
Both of these teams have had their problems with goaltending consistency this season so much of this series will depend upon which goalie Smith or Crawford shows up for the whole series. I would like to see the Coyotes win but I think the Blackhawks have too much power in other positions to be stopped. Chicago advances in 7 games.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7
 
Conor Hassard:
This series is a lot like the Devils-Panthers series. The only reason the Coyotes, like the Panthers, finished high in the standings is because of the divisional seeding. The Blackhawks are still the overall better team and have plenty of guys with a lot of experience. The Coyotes won their last five games and will have a fighting chance, but not enough to take down the Hawks.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6
 
Matt Cefalu: 
This is going to be a tight series regardless of whether or not Chicago captain Jonathan Toews returns to the lineup for game one. Mike Smith has been a revelation for Phoenix and if their team defense can continue to earn them wins in tightly checked games, they will put up a big fight against the Hawks. However, Chicago’s star power and playoff experience will inevitably give them the series and Corey Crawford will be strong enough to carry the Hawks into at least the second round.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7
 
Adam Pardes:
Prediction: I don't really see either team with the upper hand here, so predicting a full seven games seems like a pretty safe bet. The Blackhawks have proven in years past that they're capable of doing the little things right in order to succeed in the playoffs, which is what I believe they'll do yet again against the Coyotes.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 7
 
George Royle:
The Hawks are the dark horses to lift the Stanley Cup this year. I cant see the Coyotes putting up much of a fight, Blackhawks to take it easy.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 4
 
Ty Fisher:
A congratulations is in order for Phoenix, who despite all odds captured their first Pacific division title in franchise history. It won't last however. Even at the reportedly 80-85% Jonathan Toews is coming back as, his presence alone will catapult Chicago into the team that once looked like the cream of the Central division crop. A less than stellar goal-tending situation pushes this one to six games, but not much further at all.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6
 
Chuck Gaston Jr.:
Mike Smith is on fire and Ray Whitney wants it bad. I don't see steady enough goaltending in Chicago to take this one.
Prediction: Coyotes in 7
 
Andy Veilleux:
Blackhawks limped this year, in huge part due to the injury of Toews. He is the heart and soul of the team, along with a few others, and missing their true number-one centre hurt. He is apparently back and ready to play, so this team should not be seen as the underdog. Kane has had a pathetic year, but he is still a danerous player. Hossa is still one of the best big-game forward out there. Chicago's goaltending is pedestrian, and while Smith has had a good season, he hasn't proven a thing in the playoffs.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 6