2014 NHL Playoffs Preview : Blues Vs Blackhawks

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It’s an all-Central Division matchup between two of the best teams in the Western Conference and, for that matter, the entire League when the St. Louis Blues play host to the Chicago Blackhawks.

 

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200px-StLouis_Blues.svg200px-ChicagoBlackhawksLogo.svg

Chicago Blackhawks (46-21-15, 107 points)

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St. Louis Blues (52-23-7, 111 points)

This opening round series features two strong teams in a “Champion Vs Challenger” showdown. The defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks square off against their powerful divisional rivals, the St. Louis Blues.

 

Regular Season Statistics

 

 
 
Blues
Blackhawks
 
Goals Per Game 3 (7) 3.25 (1)
Goals Against Per Game 2.33 (3) 2.68 (T12)
Power Play 19.8% (7) 19.5% (T9)
Penalty Kill 85.7% (2) 81.4% (19)

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Head to Head
STL 3, CHI 2

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
October 9, 2013 Chicago 2, St. Louis 3
October 17, 2013 St. Louis 3, Chicago 2 (SO)
December 28, 2013 Chicago 5, St. Louis 6 (SO)
March 19, 2014 St. Louis 0, Chicago 4
April 6, 2014 St. Louis 2 Chicago 4

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FORWARDS

 

There is no disputing the offensive abilities of Chicago, who boast such snipers as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Sharp topped the list with 34 goals and 78 points, followed closely by Kane and Toews who each flirted with 70 points in abbreviated seasons. Youngsters Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad are up-and-comers with some scoring flair of their own, either reaching or approaching 20 goals apiece. Toews and Kane both recently returned from injuries. Are they 100% yet?

The Blues have some guns of their own, however. Alexander Steen tailed off in the second half of the season but still led the Blues with 33 goals and 62 points in just 68 games. 21-year-old Jaden Schwartz potted 25 for the Blues in just his second full season. American Olympic standout T.J. Oshie, David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko all also topped the 20 goal mark. Injuries to key forwards Oshie, Tarasenko and Vladimir Sobotka may make the difference here.

Edge : Blackhawks

DEFENSE

 

Chicago boasts one of the better pairings in the league in Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. The two combined for over 100 regular season points and offer an impressive mix of offense and defense. Nicklas Hjalmarsson, Sheldon Brookbank and Johnny Oduya provide decent depth.
St. Louis has Alex Pietrangelo, at 24 already considered one of the top blueliners in the game. Jay Bouwmeester and Kevin Shatterkirk aren’t far behind. Round it out with a nice supporting cast including shutdown specialists Barret Jackman and banger Roman Polak and it becomes clear why the Blues finished the season with the league’s third best goals against average.

Edge : Blues

GOALTENDING

 

 

Corey Crawford is still the top dog between the pipes in Chi-Town. The defending Cup-winning goalie put up respectable numbers for Chicago this season, posting a 32-16-10 record with a pair of shutouts. The Hawks had better hope Crawford is up to the task, because they don’t have a single other NHL-calibre tender on the roster. Backup Anti Raanta won 13 games but posted mediocre numbers, and isn’t someone the Hawks really want to have to turn to.
Newcomer Ryan Miller figures to get the nod for ST. Louis. It will be his first taste of the postseason since the 2010-11 season where he boasts a career 25-22 record, all with the Buffalo Sabres. Miller stumbled a bit after winning seven of his first eight starts after joining the Blues, ending up with a 10-8-1 record. In a pinch, the Blues have Brian Elliott who is more than capable of winning clutch games, on standby.
Edge : Blues

 

SERIES PREDICTION

 

Everybody knows the style of gameplay changes in the post season. Gone are many of the questionable plays that result in penalties during the regular season. Emphasis is placed on goaltending and defense, with fewer rushing plays and all-out attacks being launched. This plays directly into St. Louis’ game plan. Who even with some key players down with injuries, still have enough firepower to score some timely goals when needed.
This should prove to be a fairly close, hard-fought series. Chicago has won two of the past four Stanley Cups, but while you can’t underestimate their scoring prowess and team depth, I think they’re in for a rough time of it with this Blues team, who may have finally put all the right pieces together for a serious run.

 

BLUES WIN SERIES 4 GAMES TO 2

- JP (@Joe_SoWhatElse)

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