Can Blackhawks even up quarters with Blues?
Sometimes it takes a fluky goal to finally gain the upper hand on a seemingly impenetrable rival.
No one’s guaranteeing the Blues a first-round triumph over the Blackhawks based on David Backes’ crazy Game 1 winner, but Wednesday’s 1-0 result in overtime was wholly necessary for the home team. St. Louis can head to the United Center with a 2-0 series lead if it simply takes care of business this evening.
According to online sports book Bovada.lv, Ken Hitchcock’s team enjoys odds of -130 to do precisely that. Chicago, in the rare position of playing from behind, is a very slight underdog.
Two nights ago, a 69-minute stalemate between the two Central Division rivals ended when Backes’ pass deflected off Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk’s skate and past netminder Corey Crawford. The goal gave Brian Elliott the win in his playoff nod since 2013. St. Louis’ goalie made 35 saves and generally looked the part of a guy who went 12-1-1 with a 1.90 GAA down the stretch.
Collectively, though, the Note’s scoring chances were sporadic. Crawford only had to stop 17 shots, and he’ll get a big boost with the return of Duncan Keith. (The All-Star just completed a suspension for high-sticking Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.) Can sniper extraordinaire Vladimir Tarasenko weave through the Blackhawks’ blue line and make a larger impact for three periods? Will the prodigious second line of Paul Stastny, Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer be held in check again?
The Blues pride themselves on rolling four forward groups. Regardless of what the scoreboard said at the conclusion of the first affair, however, Chicago prevailed in the area of balance. Fully cognizant of the fact that St. Louis boasts three consecutive victories, we still like the defending Stanley Cup champion to knot up the proceedings going to the Windy City.
FRIDAY NHL FREE PICK: BLACKHAWKS +1.5