NHL: League-leading offense and defense set to clash
In what experts are predicting to be the best opening series among all NHL matchups, the Blackhawks are prepared to face-off against the once point leader Blues. The matchup is slated to be a physical battle, as both teams are considered to be serious Stanley Cup contenders. What makes this series even more intriguing is the conflict in style and strengths, as well as the old rivalry between the two.
The Blues are known for their stifling defense, led by veterans Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. The Hawks boast a prolific, league leading offense, with a variety of scorers, including Patrick Sharp (34 goals, 78 points) and Marian Hossa (30 goals, 60 points). There are many questions surrounding how this will play out in the series. Will the Hawks be able to push past the smothering nature of the defense and find ways to score?
The Blues-Hawks rivalry has been revitalized since the Red Wings have switched conferences. It is often considered one of the most intense NHL rivalries- because the teams are so different, the games often have significant roughing and fighting penalties.
In regards to history, the Blackhawks (46-21-15) have extensive playoff experience, including 2 Stanley Cup victories within the last 4 years. The Blues (52-23-7) are coming off of one of their best seasons as a franchise, but have little Stanley Cup experience with only 3 appearances in the finals and no titles. Many are predicting that the Hawks’ experience is going to be a game-changer in this matchup- they know what it takes to win, and have proven they are capable of doing so.
The Blues had a phenomenal regular season, before losing their last 6 games of the season. Hockey pundits are saying that the team is playing the worst hockey of the entire season. The Hawks had a good season, and finished out with some key victories. The Hawks are 2-1-2 against the Blues this season, winning the most recent matchup 4-0, which the Blues tried to bully their way to victory. However, there is speculation about the injuries the Hawks have suffered and how this will affect their play. One of the big unknowns is if stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will return to their mid season form and make an impact in the playoffs.
Many are predicting that this series will go 7 games, with neither team having the clear advantage. The Hawks need to withstand the Blues physical onslaught to win. The Blues will need to find a way to solve the Hawks’ transition game. As every fan knows, playoff hockey comes down to crashing the net and who has the hottest goaltender. Will the Blues trade deadline pickup of Ryan Miller take them to their first Cup, or will Corey Crawford add a Conn Smythe trophy to his mantle?
The series is scheduled to kickoff on Thursday, April 17th at 8pm ET at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.