Apr 10, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) confronts Minnesota Wild left wingMike Rupp
(27) after a hit on right wingT.J. Oshie
(74) in the second period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
#4 – What Away Games?
Probably the most interesting aspect of this series is the geographical proximity. St. Louis and Chicago are a mere 300 miles apart, roughly a five hour commute by road and rail. Last year I attended the Hawks’ last regular season game in St. Louis. Despite the meaninglessness of the game for the Blackhawks (who had already clinched the President’s Trophy) and the fact that a good chunk of the starters were healthy scratches, my Amtrak train was full of Blackhawks fans. Needless to say the, the Scotttrade Center was half full of red sweaters at the game that evening. This was a game that didn’t even matter! I can barely fathom the Hawks fans’ turnout for playoff games in St. Louis. Obviously the Madhouse on Madison will be witnessing a decent amount of infiltration by Blues fans, but I doubt it’ll be anywhere near the level of red, white, and black invading St. Louis. Chicago’s just got the numbers; it’s as simple as that. In other words, the Hawks could be easily looking at having a home ice crowd for every game of the series, which is really rare and a heck of a benefit.
#3 – Injuries
While both the Blackhawks and the Blues have been hampered with injuries late in the regular season, the Blues lost a bigger chunk. The Blues have been sans David Backes, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Pietrangelo, and Vladimir Sobotka; whereas the Hawks have only been skating without Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Rumor is Kane and Toews will be back in the lineup for Game 1 as will Backes, Oshie, Jackman, Pietrangelo and Sobotka. Even though Toews and Kane are the faces of the franchise, the Hawks demonstrated they can win without them (eventually), while the Blues have not shown the ability to play through injured players’ hiatus as well. One could argue this has something to say about a team’s overall caliber, but I personally feel this highlights the lower tier players’ on a team ability to rise to the occasion and fill in for their injured teammates. The Hawks have a somewhat better success rate in this category, and this is a definite plus given that it’s how the bench plays that determines the depth of the playoff run.