It's that time of the year folks! Men grow out what they call the infamous playoff beard, die hard fans gear up and are ready to cheer on the hometown team. And the 16 teams that have made the playoffs strive for those 16 wins to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup. One team will come out on top and will earn the best team of the 2013-2014 NHL season.
Two of the 16 teams fighting for the top dog are the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, which will start on Thursday in St Louis at the Scottrade Center. Both these teams have played well all year and will hopefully be ready to give it their all starting April 17th.
As we look at these two teams, you see talented forwards, deep defenseman, and experience goal-tenders. The question is who will do the little things right which will most likely win that team the series.
The Chicago Blackhawks finished the year at 46-21-15 with 107 points which was seventh in the entire NHL. On the other hand, the St Louis Blues went 52-23-7 and finished with 111 points tied for fifth in the league. Some other statistics: Hawks finished second in the league in goals for where the Blues finished seventh. The Blues finished seventh in power play conversion where the Hawks rounded out the top ten. All the other categories where pretty evenly split on the clear winner. Another interesting fact: Blues finished the year on a six game losing streak and the Hawks finished on a win streak. Pretty clear who may have the momentum going into the win or go home series. Now to give a clearer look at this set of games lets see what each team has to offer.
The Chicago Blackhawks are defending Stanley Cup Champions! You would think that is enough right?
The Hawks contain one of the best duos at the forward position of Kane and Toews. These guys have already won two cups and each own a Conn Smyth. Talk about experience in the league or what. The depth of these forwards is incredible. They are Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brandon Sadd, Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, returnee Kris Versteeg, Marcus Krugar, Michal Handzus and the young rookies Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Joakim Nordstrom. The goal production and penalty kill of Krugar and Shaw will be a lot to handle for the Blues for sure. The Hawks will need to focus on putting the right people together and execution of the game plan.
The defenseman for the Hawks are a very special group. Led by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook they have one of the best groups in the league. The other proud d men of the Hawks are Sheldon Brookbank, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Nick Leddy, Johhny Oduya, and Michal Rozsival. Keith and Seabrook will lead the troops into battle. Leddy will help with the penalty kill while the others block shots (Hjalmarsson) and get that puck out of the zone.
You can not forget the Hawks Goal-tender, Corey Crawford. He lead the team to the Cup victory last year and showed he can play in this league. He gave up 2,26 goals a game with a .917 save percentage.
On to the men South of Chicago, The St. Louis Blues. The Blues ended the regular season on a six game skid but want to rebound and fight for their lives to escape the first round.
The St. Louis Blues consist of a very good group of forwards. The main guys of their Captain David Backes, Brenden Morrow, T. J. Oshie, Steve Ott, Chris Porter, and Alexander Steen. Oshie and Backes are 20 plus goal scorers and will look to light the lamp plenty of times in the playoffs. Morrow will look to provide veteran presence and become a leader.
The Blues defenseman may not be as deep as the Hawks but still have a few big names: Jay Bouwmeester, Barret Jackman, and Alex Pietrangelo. Boumeester tallied 31 assists and Pietrangelo tallied an amazing 41 with a +/- rating of 20 which was 36th in the league. They might not have the best depth but have three leaders to do a lot of ice time to protect their defensive zone from the attacking Hawks.
The man between the pipes for the Blues is Brian Elliott. He is second in the league in goals allowed with 1.96 and a .922 save percentage. He is an experienced veteran and knows what it takes to win.
So both these teams have a great deal of talent.
Both these teams have talent and great men between the pipes to stop the puck from hitting the netting and setting off the horn. Both these teams need to execute and get the game plan straight because this isn't the regular season anymore.....its the Cup.
Prediction: Hawks win in 5. The Hawks will have Kane and Toews back healthy. The Blues lost the last six of the year and obviously did not look like themselves and question how they will rebound from the skid. Hawks got the team and the will to advance and cut the wins down to 12! #BecauseItsTheCup
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