Question 1: I honestly think the Nashville Predators would be the lesser of two evils here for a few reasons. I don’t think Preds goalie Pekka Rinne would be able to hack it against Chicago’s powerhouse offense. Not that I think St. Louis’s Jake Allen would fare much better, but the Blues also have forward Vladimir Tarasenko. The ’Hawks always get their butts kicked by Tarasenko.
Not to mention the mental side of things. Although the Blackhawks have a rivalry with both these teams, I believe it’s stronger against the Blues. The Blues hate the ’Hawks, and they really want to take them down. They eliminated them in last year’s playoffs, and if they could do it two years in a row? That provides an awful lot of incentive, and makes for a dangerous situation I’d rather not be a part of.
Question 2: Patrick Kane. First off, Kane is a skill and finesse player and he’s quite small, so this would pretty much never happen. That’s why it would be so entertaining, because of the novelty factor. Secondly, well I’ll just get myself into trouble if I continue, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead.
Da Windy City
Alternate answer: Corey Crawford. Don’t piss off Crow! He went nuts on the Blues’ Robby Fabbri in last year’s playoffs. And remember in 2014 when he met Kings goalie Jonathan Quick at center ice for some words? The playoffs seem to bring out the beast in Crawford.
Question 1: I’d rather the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues in the opening round. I don’t really buy into the “rivalries hurt in the playoffs” notion or the “Blues have the Blackhawks’ number because of last season” notion. Rivalries go both ways, and the Blackhawks bested the Blues in the 2014 postseason.
The Blues are a very different team this season than last, but they still have one truly dangerous threat in Vladimir Tarasenko. Besides that, this team is entirely ordinary and entirely beatable. Jake Allen has not shown he can be trusted in net for a postseason series, and coach Mike Yeo spent years failing to get the Minnesota Wild past Chicago in the postseason.
The Predators, meanwhile, have a much better defense led by P.K. Subban and Roman Josi to protect a better goaltender in Pekka Rinne (although it’s not as if the Blackhawks haven’t had success against him). There were tons of guys who wound up posing threats to the Blackhawks during these teams’ 2015 postseason matchup — way more threats than the Blues had last season.
The reason, to me, the Blues won last season’s matchup? The Blackhawks defense was an atrocious mess. The Blues probably would’ve been gone in five games had the Blackhawks been able to roll out more than a couple reliable guys. The defense is theoretically better now, and the Blues are literally worse than they were last season. I’ll take them to open.
Question 2: Setting aside past concussion issues, I’d go for Corey Crawford. Crow has a mean streak in him for sure. It came out during the 2014 Western Conference finals against Los Angeles and last season against the Blues.
He’s also very protective of his teammates, jumping in on Kyle Clifford when he was roughing up Jonathan Toews in a 2013 postseason series. Crow could be like Ray Emery with more talent in the net. Set him off against Tuukka Rask for the main event of a goalie fights card.