What do 52 wins, the second highest goal differential and the best mustache in the NHL have in common?
They are owned by the Chicago Blackhawks, the media darlings of the NHL.
With their offensive firepower and well-documented youth gone wild, they have given NHL enthusiasts heart attacks while at the same time dropping their jaws.
From 21-year-old captain Jonathan Toews, the youngest in the NHL, to Tomas Kopecky, this team is loaded with enough talent to be the class of the league for years to come.
Fellow 21-year-old Patrick Kane leads the team in points, giving the Hawks the youngest core in hockey. But this team isn’t looking toward next season. Unlike their baseball brethren to the north, they have their eyes focused on the prize this season, Lord Stanley’s Cup.
They have to play division rival, the Nashville Predators in the first round. The Hawks won four of six during the regular season, but the two teams haven’t met since late December.
The Hawks don’t have all the answers right now. The situation in goal has been the topic of discussion for months for Hawks fans. But the starter down the stretch, Antti Niemi, sported a goals against average of 2.25 and seven shutouts in only 39 games, both put him toward the top of the NHL.
This brings me to my favorite part. Joel Quenneville is in his second season at the helm of the Hawks and all he’s done is take a team that was “too young” to the Western Conference Finals last season.
Behind that experience and his amazing facial hair, the Hawks will win the Cup.
Many counted the Detroit Red Wings out of the playoff race when they entered the Olympic break in ninth place, just out of playoff contention.
When they returned, they charged their way to the best post-Olympic record in the NHL, 16-3-2. Proving themselves to, yet again, be one of the top teams in the league.
The biggest detriment to the Wings in the first half of the season came from injuries, when their nine top scorers missed a combined 75 games.
As players, like Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg, returned, the wins started rolling in. With the roster full of healthy players, every line the Red Wings put on the ice is loaded with talent.
Through those injury-laden times, the Wings relied heavily on their rookie goaltender Jimmy Howard. With a 2.26 goals against average, potential Vezina and Calder nominee Howard provided the boost the Wings needed and kept them in games they had no right to win.
Howard got some help from two of the best defensemen in the league, Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. The defensive duo is one to be reckoned that will play a large part in the playoffs.
The Red Wings wouldn’t be where there are now if it wasn’t for the strong coaching of Mike Babcock. Widely considered one of the best coaches in the league, he knows how to push his players and get the job done.
One other thing that gives the Wings an edge over their competitors is their experience. The Wings know how to win in high-pressure situations and know what it feels like to play in big games.
Get ready to see some octopus throwing. The Wings are going to win the Cup.