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Stanley Cup Playoffs: 9 Reasons Blues Will Defeat Blackhawks

By Nick Heupel
Apr 4, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Troy Brouwer (36) is congratulated by left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) and center Paul Stastny (26) and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) and defenseman Colton Parayko (55) after scoring a goal against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Troy Brouwer (36) is congratulated by left wing Jaden Schwartz (17) and center Paul Stastny (26) and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) and defenseman Colton Parayko (55) after scoring a goal against the Arizona Coyotes during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The first round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs pits two bitter rivals against one another in a best-of-seven series which is set to begin in St. Louis on tonight. The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks met five times over the course of the regular season, and the Blues won three of those five games. The defending-champion Chicago Blackhawks appeared haggard and disheveled in recent weeks, leading many to believe that the reigning champs will not make it past this first round of competition.

The St. Louis Blues have played well all year, and they nearly supplanted the Central Division leaders, the Dallas Stars, at the end of the season. The city of St. Louis believes in this Blues team, and the Blues believe in themselves. Here are nine reasons the St. Louis Blues will defeat the Chicago Blackhawks in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

1. The Blues’ Big, Physical Defense

Defense is the pillar of St. Louis’ game. The team ranks fourth in the NHL for goals against per game, allowing an average of 2.40 goals in each contest. The Blues play a tough brand of hockey, and their skaters are not afraid to hit opposing players. They will fight savagely to clear the front of their net and prevent opponents from cashing in on tasty rebounds. Also, watch for Blues forwards clogging up the neutral zone, blocking any rushes from speedy Blackhawks skaters.

Since last season, the Blues have augmented their defensive core with two rookie defensemen who have contributed greatly to the team’s success. With more depth and fresh legs, this defense will be hard to beat.

2. More Offensive Capability

The Blues acquired Troy Brouwer before the beginning of the regular season, and he has become a key player and a regular contributor on offense. Rookies Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko both earned more than 30 points in the regular season, adding to the Blues’ offensive power. In total, 10 players on the Blues’ roster have posted 30 points or more this season.

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock likes to spread the scoring around, and he boasts three offensive lines that can create chances and finish big plays. If the top-line guys are struggling to produce, the Blues can rely on their lower forward lines to get the job done. It is important to remember that Parayko is a defenseman. With Parayko, Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis’ blue-line is looking more dangerous on offense than ever before.

Blackhawks’ Defense Will Fail

In Duncan Keith’s absence, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville may only start five defensemen in Game 1. The Blues would be sure to capitalize on opportunities against a temporarily crippled Blackhawks defense. Even after Keith’s return in Game 2, Chicago’s defense looks shallow. The Blackhawks have not been able to fill the hole left by Johnny Oduya’s departure, and this will cost them.

If one or more of Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson suffer injury or earn a suspension in the series, the Blackhawks will lose. All three of those players will be playing an insane number of minutes to cover for inexperienced players like Trevor van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson. Lackluster defensemen Michal Rozsival and Christian Ehrhoff (if he plays) are unlikely to contribute much to Chicago’s defensive efforts. Errors and mishandles will be punished.  

4. Two League-Leading Goaltenders

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, goalies must perform beyond any and all expectations. This is a desperate time of year in the hockey world, and in times of desperation, teams rely on their goaltenders to keep them alive in both games and series. It really does not matter who the Blues start in goal.

Brian Elliott leads the league with a .930 save percentage. His teammate, Jake Allen, is not far behind with a .920 save percentage. Elliott allows an average of 2.07 goals per game, while his partner allows an average of 2.35 goals per game. Both of these guys play well in net. Even if the Blackhawks can solve for one of these great netminders, the Blues will be able to throw a new set of pads in front of goal without sacrificing any quality of play. Whoever St. Louis decides to play down the stretch, Blackhawks fans should expect stingy goaltending from the guys in blue.

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5. Lack Of Depth For Blackhawks

Everyone knows which line scores the most goals for the Chicago Blackhawks: the second line. Both Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews have struggled to create offense this season. The late addition of Andrew Ladd may stabilize Chicago’s first line, but it remains to be seen. Lower-line contributions are sparse, with some crucial points coming from Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw.

And yet, the Blackhawks are still scrambling to find the best forward-line combinations. Veteran players Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann have yet to make an impact following their move to Chicago in trade deadline deals. Uncertainty looms large as the Blackhawks work to iron out the wrinkles and imperfections in both their offensive and their defensive lineups. Discipline will be key for Chicago in this postseason. Should any of the Blackhawks’ top skaters be sidelined due to either injury or suspension, this team will not survive.

stanley cup playoffs
Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

6. Blues Play Blues Hockey

If the St. Louis Blues impose their style of play upon the Blackhawks, then they will win the series. It sounds simple: Whichever team dominates, wins. The Blues know the Blackhawks very well. They know how to counter Chicago’s fast-passing, puck-handling attack. They know they will be facing a less-experienced Blackhawks defense.

St. Louis forwards will pester Chicago’s defensemen on the forecheck. They will create turnovers in the zone, slow the play down, get bodies in front of the net and win the battles down low for scrappy goals. The Blackhawks struggle to control the front of their net, and this weakness will haunt Chicago in the series against St. Louis.

The Blues play a very blunt style of hockey, and when it works, it limits the Blackhawks’ offensive abilities and keeps the Blackhawks pinned in their own end of the ice, fighting to clear the puck out of their defensive zone. If the Blues are able to dominate the flow of play in each game, they will win the series.

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7. Faceoffs

Winning the puck off the faceoff is crucial for any hockey team. Winning faceoffs leads to possession, which usually leads to scoring opportunities. The St. Louis Blues win faceoffs. The team ranks fifth in the NHL for faceoff wins with a 51.3 percent rate of success. The Blackhawks, by contrast, slouch in 22nd place for faceoff wins, taking the puck only 49.3 percent of the time. With better possession from the faceoff circle, the Blues will be able to dictate the pace of the game, and they will be able to maintain offensive zone pressure, which will ultimately result in goals.

8. Vladimir Tarasenko

The St. Louis Blues’ hot-shot sniper will be a key player and a big reason the Blues could march on to victory. Although his playoff experience is limited, his experience inside the Blues organization spans four seasons. Over those four years, Tarasenko has blossomed into a top-rated goalscorer, leading the Blues in points and goals. He is fast, he is strong and he has a quick release.

He shoots a lot more than the rest of his teammates, and he scores big goals for his team — he leads the Blues with seven game-winning goals. Tarasenko brings an explosive energy onto the ice, and he will definitely be motivating his teammates to keep fighting. Look for Tarasenko to deliver some dream-crushing goals this series.

9. Comeback Kids

The St. Louis Blues came from behind to win in 22 games this regular season. This group of players wants to win so badly. The Blues skaters must have two-ton hearts, and they leave them on the ice every time they play. You need a lot of spirit and hunger to win a Stanley Cup, and this group has all of it.

Looking at the way St. Louis played their regular-season games, there is no way that this team will ever surrender. The Blues will not quit. No matter how badly the Blackhawks beat them down, this St. Louis team will find a way to crawl back to win the series because they never give up.