Mar 19, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) is held by Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
Finally! The playoffs have begun!
Fans of the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues couldn’t have asked for a more exciting first round matchup, to begin the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
One team will advance to the next round and one team will go down in NHL history as a 1st round disappointment. Who will do what?
Let’s take a look at how the Blackhawks and Blues matchup.
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Statistically speaking, the Blues have the advantage, in this series, but regular season stats don’t always tell us a whole lot, in the playoffs. During the regular season, the Blues won the first 3 games, of the season series, between the Central Division rivals. However, the Blackhawks won the final two, in which both of those victories took place after the Blues acquired Ryan Miller, and the final victory happened without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. It’s hard to say how this one will go down.
The Blues ended the regular season, scuffling to the finish line and falling out of 1st place, in the Central. Part of the reason for the Blues’ 6-game losing streak, to finish the season, was the loss of several players, from it’s core skaters, to injury. David Backes, Vladimir Taraesenko, and Brenden Morrow all missed time, recently, and are expected to be back in the lineup, for tonight’s game. Olympic hero, T.J. Oshie’s status remains a bit up in the air, at the moment, and may be a game-time decision. Leading scorer, Alex Steen and Jaden Schwartz are healthy and good to go, as is the dangerous top blueline pairing of Alex Pietranegelo and Jay Bouwmeester.
In net, for the Blues, will be Ryan Miller. Miller, who was the big trade deadline acquisition, for the Blues, was off to a hot start, to his Blues tenure, but ended the season, in a deep, ugly slump. Breaking out of the slump will likely go a long was in deciding if the Blues are able to advance to the 2nd round.
The Blackhawks ended the season flying high, and that was without the services of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. The Hawks were forced to learn how to win without the two star players, and they did just that. Their respective returns to the lineup, is huge, and may act like a gigantic trade deadline acquisition. The Hawks have plenty of depth, though, with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp stepping up, in the absence of Kane and Toews. Brandon Saad will get a chance to flourish, on the top-line, alongside Toews and Kris Versteeg. Kane will be protected, on a potentially dangerous 3rd line, with the likes of last year’s playoff hero, Bryan Bickell and Andew Shaw.
In net, for the Hawks, will be Corey Crawford. Crawford had a great season, for the Hawks and was rounding himself into playoff form, at season’s end. Hopefully a 2nd consecutive run at the Stanley Cup will be enough for him to fend off all of his doubters.
All of the anticipation is about to end, as Game One, is finally here. Will home-ice advantage be the difference, for the Blues? Is their slump over? Are all of the injured forwards, for both teams ready for a likely brutal and exhausting series.