Blackhawks-Blues Series Preview

Blackhawks-Blues Series Preview

Trying to become the first team in the salary-cap era to capture back-to-back Stanley Cups, the Blackhawks may discover that their biggest potential roadblock arrives right away.

Tomorrow night, a furious rivalry gets renewed at Scottrade Center. Central Division stalwarts St. Louis and Chicago will drop the puck in the evening’s final contest. According to online sports book Bovada.lv, Ken Hitchcock’s squad enjoys odds of -110 to finally vanquish its perpetual nemesis.

Bet on Stanley Cup Playoff Odds

The Blackhawks, naturally, possess identical odds of -110 to take the series. While Joel Quenneville’s players finished four points behind the Blues in the standings, Chi-Town clearly carries the pedigree – and track record – into this matchup. In 2014, Patrick Kane and company ousted the Note in six contests en route to reaching the Western Conference finals.

Last season obviously produced an even better prize. Yet as the Windy City held another parade, St. Louis watched in agony. The Blues had suffered a first-round flameout, again, succumbing to the Minnesota Wild. Superb right wing Vladimir Tarasenko accounted for six of the club’s 14 goals, while those around him squandered home-ice advantage.

Thanks to an exquisite final month, St. Louis receives the same luxury in 2016. With the exception of David Backes (lower body) and Steve Ott (colitis), everybody’s operating at full health, too. Injuries came in waves throughout the regular season, but Hitchcock pushed so many of the right buttons that the West’s top seed wasn’t claimed by Dallas until last Saturday.

Chicago’s not ready to cry for the enemy. The Blackhawks themselves lost countless key contributors, including goalie Corey Crawford and forward Marian Hossa, for prolonged stretches. Crawford’s a go for Game 1, however, and his presence radically changes the equation. The 31-year-old went 9-0-0 with a 1.88 GAA and .946 save percentage during the Blackhawks’ franchise-record 12-game winning streak from Dec. 19-Jan. 19. When healthy, he’s simply a cut above the bulk of the competition.

NHL Quick Links: Free Matchup Reports | Injuries | Odds Comparison | Scoreboard | Betting Trends

The Blues’ Brian Elliott (23-8-6) also enjoyed an accolade-filled campaign. Jake Allen’s extended absence throughout the second half ensured frequent starts for the two-time All-Star, who responded in kind. Elliott certainly benefits from a stout blue line in front of him as well. Veteran mainstays such as Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk continue to perform the heavy lifting, but rookies Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson are consistently amassing longer, crucial shifts.

Enough, though, with the praise and puck-moving compliments – can these defensemen stand up to Chicago’s preposterously accomplished stars up front? Kane just paced the entire league in scoring, surpassing 100 points for the first time. Captain Jonathan Toews overcame an upper-body ailment to pot 28 goals, and Artemi Panarin led all rooks in tallies (30) and assists (47).

Still, it would be unwise to undersell the Note’s own prolific talent. Tarasenko (40 goals) probably represents the second-scariest sniper in the NHL behind Alexander Ovechkin. Paul Stastny (19 points since March 9), two-way dynamo Alexander Steen and Jaden Schwartz provide excellent support.

The difference here could well boil down to personnel on D, and that’s where the Blackhawks look vulnerable. General manager Stan Bowman failed to find a proper replacement for Johnny Oduya, which left an irreparable void behind Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. To worsen matters, Keith will remain suspended for Wednesday’s opener. If the Blues don’t pull through now, well, expect massive turnover in the months ahead.

SERIES NHL FREE PICK: BLUES -110

Want More From TheSpread.com? Follow on Twitter and Facebook or Subscribe to Our News Feeds!

Loading...

NHL Predictions & Picks

Thumbnail Bruins, Knights co-NHL favorites The NHL is on an indefinite leave right now, but the anticipated race to the Stanley Cup looks like it will be a very competitive one. Here’s the latest odds to...
Thumbnail NHL Suspends Play Due to Coronavirus While the NHL suspended play on Thursday due to the coronavirus, the league also intends on finishing its regular season at some point. Whether or not the league...
Thumbnail Senators vs. Kings Wednesday Prediction Did oddsmakers set the over/under for Wednesday night’s matchup between the Senators and Kings too high? The puck drops at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail Rangers vs. Stars Tuesday Prediction The Rangers and Stars meet in Dallas on Tuesday night when the two teams meet at 8:30 p.m. ET. With the total sitting at 5.5, what’s the best play for bettors...
Thumbnail Capitals vs. Sabres Monday Prediction The over/under for Monday night’s matchup between the Capitals and Sabres is sitting at a whopping 6.5 goals but does that mean the over is out of the question...

NHL Headlines