Do regular-season results matter?
Detroit will hope not.
The Blackhawks swept the season series 4-0 (though, to be fair, three of the games went to shootout or overtime) and clobbered the Wings 7-1 on Mar. 31, a game Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said “was embarrassing at times.”
The ‘Hawks are 7-0-2 in their last nine against the Wings — dating back to last season — and haven’t lost in regulation to Detroit in over two years (Apr. 10, 2011).
Can Howard best Crawford?
Most admit Chicago has the edge in terms of forward and defensive depth, so the goaltending position is hugely important.
Statistically speaking, Crawford had the superior opening round. He posted a 1.32 GAA and .950 save percentage to Howard’s 2.74 and .911, but it was Howard that stepped up when the stakes were high.
He went 3-1 in overtimes during Round 1 — stopping nine of 10 shots faced — and came up big again in Game 7, stopping 20 of 21 shots in the second and third periods as Anaheim looked to rally (and the only goal that beat Howard was a bank shot off Jonathan Ericsson’s skate).
How tired are the Wings?
It was a tough opening round for Detroit, drawing arguably the worst travel option imaginable (nearly 2000 miles between Anaheim and Detroit).
The Wings made a number of cross-country flights during the series, went to overtime in four of the seven games and suffered several injuries along the way: Danny DeKeyser (broken thumb) was lost for the playoffs, Mikael Samuelsson aggravated a pectoral muscle injury, Jimmy Howard has a sore hamstring and Dan Cleary was a human bruise by Game 7.
Will Sharp stay hot?
After missing 20 games during an injury-plagued regular season, Patrick Sharp has taken the postseason by storm.
The 31-year-old forward led all Chicago skaters with five goals in the opening round, scoring two game-winning tallies.
His sniping prowess overshadowed the fact that Chicago’s leading goalscorers in the regular season — Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — failed to find the back of the net against the Wild.
Kane still managed to rack up five assists in five games, though, and gave Sharp plenty of credit for converting on his scoring chances.
‘‘He knows how to get open,’’ Kane told the Chicago Sun-Times. ‘‘And when he does, he doesn’t miss often.
“He’s always finding himself a good chance, whether it’s around the net or in the slot.’’
What to do with Datsyuk and Zetterberg?
It’s a question Anaheim wasn’t able to answer in the opening round — Datsyuk and Zetterberg combined for 15 points against the Ducks, who simply couldn’t find the proper matchup for Detroit’s two best players.
That said, the ‘Hawks might have an answer.
They’ll return center Dave Bolland for this series after he missed the end of the regular season and entire first round with a lower body injury.
Bolland is a talented checking center who figures to slot into the third line alongside Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw — a unit that can play a physical, defense-first game but also provide offense when necessary.
Even though he’s just 26, Bolland’s carved a reputation as a solid postseason performer. He has 37 points in 49 career games and scored eight goals in 22 games en route to Chicago’s Stanley Cup championship in 2010.