The Chicago Blackhawks may not have to wait long to learn of their next opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They may have the weekend off, but they may have their Western Conference semifinal foe before hitting the sheets Friday night.
Half of the Western Conference first-round series are complete, with both Chicago and San Jose advancing. Anaheim leads Detroit 3-2, and Los Angeles is up 3-2 on the Blues as well.
A Ducks win in the Motor City Friday night means that the 'Hawks pair up with the Sharks. If the Red Wings can rally this weekend, Chicago would take on Detroit.
With Game 6's puck drop at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, the Blackhawks could start preparing for an opponent Saturday, at least mentally. Who will be the best matchup for Chicago?
I say Detroit.
There are various reasons for this, though I certainly feel like the 'Hawks are more than capable of defeating either potential dance partner. After all, the 'Hawks were a combined 7-0 against Detroit and San Jose in the regular season. There's just more to like about a series with the Red Wings.
Imagine one last great rumble with Chicago's Original Six rival before Detroit heads out of the conference via realignment. That alone isn't what sways me to the Red Wings, however.
It would be nice to avoid a lot of travel, which would be an issue with a West Coast opponent. A series with Detroit may not be as rough a ride as with a bigger, more physical Sharks bunch.
Avoiding San Jose means avoiding the almost ghostly presence of Antti Niemi, who was in goal when Chicago hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2010. Adam Burish was also a member of the 2010 champions.
Former Chicago forward Martin Havlat and general dirtbag Raffi Torres reside in San Jose. Torres has injured Blackhawks in each of the last two postseasons. I wouldn't miss seeing the guy work.
In basic terms, Detroit plays a game that allows the Blackhawks offense some freedom of movement as opposed to another series of hard checks that might result in a Chicago-San Jose pairing. For that reason, I'm pulling for the Red Wings to pull out a seven-game series against the Ducks.
If the choice is facing a rival coming off a long series or a well-rested club waiting to put Chicago into the boards, I'll take the Red Wings. The Blackhawks will face off with someone next week. We could know who in just a few hours.