NHL Playoffs: Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues Preview

Jonathan Daniel

The Stats

Chicago Blackhawks St. Louis Blues
Record 46-21-15 7th 52-23-7 4th
GF/Game 3.18 2nd 2.92 6th
GA/Game 2.58 12th 2.29 3rd
5-on-5 Close SF/60 32.6 4th 28.8 19th
5-on-5 Close SA/60 26.0 3rd 27.0 5th
Fenwick Close 55.20 2nd 53.10 7th
5-on-5 Close Save % .922 18th .923 17th
5-on-4 GF/60 6.6 8th 6.8 6th
# of PP's/Gm 3.13 21st 3.45 6th
4-on-5 GA/60 6.2 19th 4.6 2nd
# of PK's/Gm 3.02 6th 3.57 26th

Background

The Chicago Blackhawks will attempt to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, a feat which has not been accomplished since the Red Wings won in 1998. The road couldn't begin with a more competitive and intense matchup, however, in division rival St. Louis (man, I love this new playoff format). The Blackhawks and Blues have been bitter rivals since the good old Norris Division days, when the hockey may have been lousy but boy, those guys loved to beat the snot out of each other.

Chicago may well be the most seasoned team in these playoffs, boasting a core group of players with two Stanley Cups on their resume already. The familiar names will naturally get all the attention such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith, but will they get the surprising performances from role players like Bryan Bickell that they did last spring? Every Cup run involves some unlikely heroes stepping up at various times, and if the 3rd and 4th liners start potting goals again, look out for the Hawks.

St. Louis, meanwhile, is primed to take their best shot at finally winning a Stanley Cup, a prize they've been chasing since they joined the NHL in 1967. Their 52 wins this season are a franchise record, and they made a bold move at the Trade Deadline by picking up Ryan Miller, who had been playing behind the worst team in the NHL in Buffalo. The issue the Blues have to deal with is injuries, as a number of key players such as Vladimir Tarasenko, T.J. Oshie and Alex Pietrangelo are all recovering from various ailments and if they're up to speed quickly, the Blues could find themselves in a deep hole before they can bring their best lineup to the ice.

These two teams have met ten times previously in the playoffs, with Chicago taking seven of those series, but their most recent matchup was in 2002, when St. Louis (coached then by current Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville) won in five games. During this regular season, St. Louis won three of their five games against Chicago but was outscored 17-14 in total.

OTF Staff Picks

Dirk: It's too bad that injuries are robbing St. Louis of taking their best shot here, but I'll take Chicago in 7.

Jon: Chicago in 5. A couple of months ago I'd be all in on St. Louis, but they've entered a tailspin at the wrong time. Between injuries and questionable goaltending, the will be too overpowering. That said, if Toews or Kane can't compete, that should even the playing field a bit.

Jason: Can they both lose somehow? No? Ok, I guess I have to pick Chicago, but I hope it goes 7 and everybody gets really, really tired.

George: Chicago in 6. While some may think the time has finally come for the Blues after a long, arduous rebuilding period, polished by T.J. Oshie's shootout heroics in Sochi, the defending Stanley Cup champions are still just too damned good. The Blackhawks have it all: offense, defense, goaltending, coaching, and a dynasty to defend. Ryan Miller has been good, but hasn't proved to be a silver bullet for St. Louis, and has never won a Stanley Cup.

Jeremy: St. Louis in 6. Chicago may be getting back Toews and Kane but the Blues have been clicking all season. They are tough, gritty, skilled and they can score. Look for Oshie's game to take the next step in the playoffs.

Blackhawks vs Blues Schedule

Game Date Time (ET) Western Conference First Round National TV
1 Thu, Apr 17 8 p.m. Chicago at St. Louis NBCSN, CBC
2 Sat, Apr 19 3 p.m. Chicago at St. Louis NBC, CBC
3 Mon, Apr 21 8:30 p.m. St. Louis at Chicago CNBC, CBC
4 Wed, Apr 23 9:30 p.m. St. Louis at Chicago NBCSN, CBC
5* Fri, Apr 25 8 p.m. Chicago at St. Louis NBCSN, CBC
6* Sun, Apr 27 3 p.m. St. Louis at Chicago NBC, CBC
7* Tue, Apr 29 TBD Chicago at St. Louis CBC
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