My how the turntables have…turned. For the better part of the past month or so, here in Chi-Town we were all but convinced that our beloved Chicago Blackhawks would be squaring off against the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the of the playoffs. Then things got interesting… The St. Louis Blues, a pinnacle of the Western Conference and Central Division, took a devastating tumble as they lost 6 straight games to finish out their regular season. The free fall cost them their Central Division title and has now pitted them against the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs.
For the record, I thought the Hawks were capable of beating the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs had the status quo prevailed, but like many Chicago denizens, I had my reservations. The Avs are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, and despite five chances this regular season, the Hawks were never able to crack the notorious Semyon Varlamov.
Against the St. Louis Blues however, I’m actually far more optimistic when it comes to the Blackhawks’ chances for success. Don’t get me wrong the Blues are a very formidable adversary, but I think as far as St. Louis is concerned, the Hawks have five distinct advantages:
#5 – Under Pressure
As we know, the Blackhawks are in a very good position to make NHL history by winning back to back Stanley Cups having retained the majority of their championship roster from last year. However, this type of pressure is more self-inflicted, and not nearly as palpable as what is bearing down on the St. Louis Blues. For the past two years, despite stellar regular season records the Blues have made early playoff exits. This year the Blues organization went all in; making arguably the biggest of trade of the season by bringing in Ryan Miller in an effort to give the team all the necessary parts they needed to win the Stanley Cup. With such a blockbuster transaction and the adoption of a “Cup of Bust” mentality, the Blues are certainly going to be facing intense scrutiny. Every error, missed opportunity, and loss in the post season will generate a heap of attention and speculation that can quickly become very distracting for the Blues. Additionally, the Hawks’ experience in the playoffs will give them a steadfast approach that could easily get under the Blues skin. If the Blues fall behind in the series, the chances of them falling on their own sword increases.