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Angus' Playoff Pool Primer - Part 1 of 2
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Breaking down each quarterfinal match-up. Included in these reports - injury news, fantasy predictions, and of course my overall prediction.

 


Western Conference Quarterfinals: (4) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (5) Calgary Flames



The Skinny:

Calgary is not in a good situation right now, as they are limping in to the postseason with multiple significant injuries. There is no word on Robyn Regehr’s knee injury, and it looks like Cory Sarich will be out for at least the first two rounds. Rene Bourque should return at some point though, and he has been a huge offensive catalyst all season for the Flames. Calgary still boasts an impressive offensive attack with the likes of Mike Cammalleri, Jarome Iginla, and Olli Jokinen.

Chicago has a fantastic transition game, thanks to swift-skating defensemen like Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell. They also have a deep, balanced forward group. And unlike Calgary, they are very healthy right now. This will be the first taste of post-season for many of their young stars, but they do have some experience on the club (Sami Pahlsson and Andrew Ladd both boast cup rings).

From a fantasy perspective, Bourque is a big time sleeper for Calgary. He has great speed and will be playing with some added motivation against his former club.  Avoid Todd Bertuzzi and Jokinen. Bertuzzi has never been a playoff performer, and Jokinen has been awful for the past month or so. Look for Daymond Langkow to step up and ride shotgun with Jarome offensively. If you think Calgary has a few rounds in them, Iginla, Langkow, and Aucoin would all be very solid pool picks.

On the Hawks, there are some interesting fantasy names to keep in mind. Ladd has the experience of winning a cup, and he has a much bigger role now than he did with Carolina in 2006. Toews is Jonathan Toews is developing into a big-time clutch goal-scorer for Chicago and will lead their offensive charge in this series. I like Kris Versteeg as a sleeper. He has slowed down considerably this season, but he competes hard and will get some favourable match-ups against a very undermanned Calgary defense if he stays on the third line.

Forwards: Even. Both teams have two solid scoring lines, and some very good role players beyond that.

Defense: Chicago. Big edge to the Hawks, who have a very strong top-four with Keith, Campbell, Cam Barker, and Brent Seabrook.

Goaltending: Calgary. Kiprusoff must be getting tired, but I’d still be worried about his ability to steal a game if I was Chicago.

Intangibles: Calgary. Hard to count out a team featuring Jarome Iginla. If Regehr can somehow get back in the series, the Flames may have a shot to grind this one out.

Match-up to Watch For:


It will be interesting to see who the Flames use against the Hawks top line (assuming it is Jonathan Toews, Martin Havlat, and either Patrick Sharp or Andrew Ladd on the left side). Dion Phaneuf has been a disaster defensively this season, and Regehr is injured. Look for veteran Adrian Aucoin and rookie Adam Pardy to be leaned on heavily in this series.

However, the most intriguing match-up to me is Khabibulin vs. the Calgary offense. If Calgary struggles to score, they won’t win a game. Chicago is going to get its fair share of chances against a very banged up and inexperienced defensive group. Calgary must keep up and find a way to put three or four past Khabibulin, or they will be facing a very quick exit.

The Verdict:

Calgary just doesn’t have the horses to compete in this series. Hawks in Five.