Apr 6, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) with the puck during the second period against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues will raise their hated rivalry to new levels, starting Thursday, when these teams start their playoff series, against one another. Both teams are considered Stanley Cup contenders, as many expect them to make deep playoff runs. However, since they are meeting in the first round, one team will have the chance to make a Cup run, and the other will be a first round exit disappointment.
Who will it be?
Let’s find out. Here we will take a look at how the forwards, of both the Blackhawks and the Blues matchup, against one another, going into their playoff series.
Here’s a look at what the Blackhawks forwards have done, this season.
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As you can see, the Hawks’ forwards all have a Corsi For Percentage, of above 50%, which is an incredible feat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, as the Hawks, as a team, are ranked 2nd, in the NHL, in Corsi For, at 55.2%. While it is impressive, it is part of the Hawks puck-controlling style, and as you can see, they executed it very well, this season.
However, many of these numbers are skewed and a result of Head Coach Joel Quenneville’s use of matchups, and what zones, on the ice he prefers certain players, to play. For example, you’re never going to see Patrick Kane, on the ice, for a defensive zone start, unless there was an icing. Quenneville will have Kane start his shifts, in the offensive zone, where Kane is most dangerous, and most valuable, to the team. Kane is not known for his defensive play, which leaves a bit to be desired, but he more than makes up for it, with his offensive skills.
Players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa will start all over the ice, since they are the Hawks’ best two-way forwards. All play solid, tight defensive hockey, and all have big offensive upsides. Toews was best on the team, at taking faceoffs, with a 57.2% faceoff percentage, which is one of the best, in the NHL. Even without the puck, Toews is a Selke Award winner, and one of the best defensive forwards, in the game. Hossa has been one of the best two-way, defensive forwards, in the NHL, his whole career, as he is an absolute force, on the ice. Sharp is rarely talked about for his defensive game, but he is definitely one of the better defensive forwards, on the Hawks’ roster, and he also lead the team, in points, this season.
The only forwards that Quenneville prefers to start, in the defensive zone, is his 4th line typically consisting of at least, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig. Kruger has won an impressive 56.7% of his faceoffs, that typically start, in the defensive zone. Both Bollig and Kruger have often forgotten about offensive upside, as Bollig surprisingly has a solid shot. However, that is not their role, on the team. Quenneville trusts these guys, in the defensive zone, which says a lot. It’s a dirty, not so glamorous, but clutch role, and Kruger has been excellent, while Bollig has definitely made strides in. It speaks volumes that Kruger and Bollig have Corsi For Percentages above 50%, considering where they usually are, when they are on the ice.
Sidenote: If Jeremy Morin has not played his way onto the playoff roster, what else does this guy have to do?
For the preview of the Blues’ forwards, head to the next page.