The Blackhawks and Blue reunite for another playoff collision, which is kind of ironic that after only meeting once in 20 years in the playoffs the year the NHL changes the playoff structure the Blues and Blackhawks are back at it again like it was the Norris Division Old School Days.
Apr 6, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Chicago won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
We caught up with Franklin Steele with the Fansided St. Louis Blues site Bleedin Blue to see what the view from Missouri is for this Stanley Cup first round matchup so here is the Q & A.
BU-1. Can the Blues’ physical play be effective enough to counter the skill of the ‘Hawks?
BB-1. I honestly don’t see why not. The Blues are structured in a way that should be quite familiar to ‘Hawks fans. The top line is utilized in a defensive fashion, with David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen seeing minutes against the opposition’s top players. The Detroit Red Wings managed to irritate Jonathan Toews a bit last year and it seemed to throw him off his game.
That idea won’t be lost on guys like Backes, Steve Ott or Max Lapierre. St. Louis ices several guys that thrive in battle situations, and I think you’ll see that right out of the gate in Game One.
Jan 31, 2014; Raleigh, NC, USA; St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock reacts against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
BU-2. Who do you expect to see out against Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews, especially if they remain on different lines?
BB-2. I think this will be one of the most interesting aspects of the series. Will Ken Hitchcock and Joel Quenneville settle into a best-on-best top-line matchup? Backes and Toews are both outstanding two-way forwards, so will either coach try to break away from that matchup in search of offense? It’s hard telling. These are two great hockey minds.
For the sake of matchups, I think the first goal in each game will be massive. That’s a trite thing to say during any hockey game, but it’s very true in this instance. The squad that scores first will be able to pursue matchups more aggressively instead of mining for that first goal.
Apr 13, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues goalie Ryan Miller (39) prepares to make a save against the Detroit Red Wings during the first period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
BU-3. Will Ryan Miller carry the load of the series, or will it be shared between Miller and Bryan Elliott?
BB-3. As a general rule, goalies aren’t usually flipped in and out during a playoff series. The Blues didn’t make the trade for Ryan Miller just to bench him if he has a tough outing in Game One. This is his series to lose, and I’d be shocked to see Hitchcock go to Brian Elliott before the series is over. If the Blues go down 3-0 do we see Elliott? Perhaps, but at that juncture it’s (probably) too late.If St. Louis moves to Elliot, it has bigger problems on hand than who’s in goal
Mar 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) skates with the puck against the Dallas Stars during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
BU-4. What player that is out with injury now is needed the most to impact the series
BB-4. Vladimir Tarasenko. Without question. It seems like the Blues will be getting most of their banged up players back in time for Game One. Tarasenko is by far the most valuable guy that might not be able to start the series though.
Folks that maybe don’t see him play that often might have him chalked up as a player that sits on the outside of the slot while looking for the pass, but he’s always the motor for whatever line he’s with. His possession numbers are ridiculous and Hitchcock loves to use him inside of the offensive zone—a bit of a departure from the way he rolls out the aforementioned first line.
If Chicago needs to be weary of anyone, it’s Tarasenko. Even if he’s at 80%.
BU-5.What bottom 6 guy needs to step up for the Blues to win?
BB-5. We’ve been waiting for Derek Roy to elevate his game all season and it just hasn’t happened. Sometimes he’ll show you these little flashes of brilliance and you’ll catch yourself wondering “who on Earth was that? Who just made that sick toe drag around a defender?” Then you notice that the player buried the puck directly into the goaltender’s chest and you don’t have to wonder any more.
If the Chicago Wolves are knocked out of the playoffs quickly, I think a guy like Ty Rattie could get the call as a Black Ace and really make an impact.
Lapierre can change a game in a variety of ways. He’s impossible to like, but he’s scored all of nine goals this season. Two of those tallies have come in the last seven games. Those little chip ins from the bottom-six would help the Blues out tremendously. Chicago’s depth is just too good for that group to continue to snooze.
BU-6. The Blues have lost 6 straight games, Is it possible to say that Game #1 is the most critical game of the series?
BB-6. If the Blues lose home ice advantage right out of the gate, it’ll be tough to bounce back from. That’s been the feeling on the Twitter-verse and in the comments sections I’ve read. No one wants to have to go to the Madhouse in a must-win game late in the series because of dropping Game One. I think it’s very fair to call that the most important game of the series.
BU-7. What is your prediction for the series?
BB-7. I’m not afraid to say that I have no idea who will win this series. I will say this though: it’s going to be ridiculously hard fought and taxing. It will be the most entertaining series of the first round, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go to double OT in Game Seven. I’m really just hoping for a good, fun series between two squads that really do not like one another. ion
There you have the few from the Arch! Thanks again to Franklin Steele for taking time out of his schedule to answer our questions and if for some reason you are looking for a St. Louis point of view drop by his site Bleedin Blue.
It all starts tomorrow night! Is it Thursday yet?
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