The greatest tournament in all of sports, in my opinion, begins tonight as the quest for the Stanley Cup begins with a trio of games. The road begins now in April, and goes all the way until June until a champion is crowned. There have been teams who have essentially been playing playoff hockey for the last two weeks, while some have just been looking forward to the playoffs starting. With regards to the Chicago Blackhawks, they’ve probably been looking forward to the start of the playoffs since October.
It’s a brand new season, and the Blackhawks have proven to be a dominant force this time of the year in the past. The Hawks captured the Stanley Cup in the 2009-10, 2012-13 season, as well as last year. They have three other championship dating back to the 1960s and 30s, so this has been the best years for the franchise in its history. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will go down as two of the best players to dawn the Blackhawks’ sweater.
Do these guys have another run in them? The Blackhawks brought back a familiar face at the trade deadline to assist them in their hunt, as Andrew Ladd was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets. They undoubtedly got Ladd for the playoffs. This is his time to prove that he can be a viable asset to the Blackhawks, just like he was during the teams previous championship runs. For the Blues, all they needed is to get healthy. The return of Jaden Schwartz up front gave them an immediate boost. As a team, the Blues were hurting through the first-half of the season. However, the rest of the season was a different story, as they played some of the best hockey we’ve seen from them in a long time.
The Blues went on to go 14-4 over their last eighteen games. Their last game was a 5-1 loss to the Capitals in a rather pointless game. The point here is that the Blues are one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs. Also, they have never really had a team at full-strength in the playoffs the past several seasons. They always come in with important injuries which ultimately seem to derail them. This year there are NO excuses. If they don’t perform, there cannot be anybody to blame but themselves. If they do win this series, it’s going to surely give them a boost of confidence for the rest of the playoffs. I see the Blues as a team to keep an eye on. As it is, the 1st round may prove to be their biggest test, at least mentally.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. St. Louis Blues NHL Playoffs Pick
The Blues are aware how successful the Blackhawks have been in the playoffs recently, it is in the back of their heads. Further, they are well aware how they’ve come up short on their own end. The Blues have to realize that this is a brand new year and have to come out as the more confident team. Chicago has not been as dominant as we’ve seen from them this season. There was a stretch where they looked their worst since 2007. The Blackhawks, the same as the Kings, have won the Cup without having a top seed, so as the old saying goes, this is a brand new season.
The Blackhawks haven’t played their best on the road this year. In spots, they have looked like an entirely different team, with a 21-15-4 record on the road. Nevertheless, home ice advantage in the playoffs has proven to be meaningless on many occasions. This is going to be a nice goaltending battle between Corey Crawford and Brian Elliott. Elliott enters the playoffs with an outstanding save percentage of 0.93 percent, 1st in the league. Additionally, a strong GAA of 2.07, 3rd in the NHL.
The Blues finished 4th in the NHL in goals against per game. Conversely, the Blackhawks were 10th in that regard. The Blackhawks do have the edge offensively, as they were 6th in scoring, compared to 15th for the Blues. I feel that this is going to be a long, grueling series. It has the makings for 7 games. I see Elliott stealing the show in game 1 here. The St. Louis crowd should be out of control. I think the city will embrace the Blues more than ever before due to the Rams moving out of town. The Blues are finally healthy for the playoffs. Look for the Blues to come out fast tonight, as they grab game number 1 to get the series started.
PICK: BLUES TO WIN -119