Can Blues shut the door on Blackhawks?
St. Louis last reached the second round of the postseason in 2012. Tonight, that drought could officially come to an end.
The Blues return home to Scottrade Center with the objective of eliminating last year’s Stanley Cup champion. Chicago and the Note stand to drop the puck at 9:30 p.m. ET in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. Oddsmakers at online sports book Bovada.lv seem ready for a changing of the Central Division guard, installing the home squad as a 1.5-goal favorite.
Ken Hitchcock’s team finds itself with a 3-1 series lead thanks to a triumphant comeback on Tuesday. St. Louis went into the United Center and edged the Blackhawks, 4-3, with unstoppable right wing Vladimir Tarasenko scoring two more goals. Chicago also witnessed a nuclear meltdown from top-six forward Andrew Shaw, whose inflammatory words toward the officiating crew prompted a suspension and fine from the NHL.
The veteran grinder had actually been one of Joel Quenneville’s most active offensive threats through four contests. Now, however, the likes of captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane must display the composure they’ve readily summoned in recent campaigns. Neither player can claim a tally against goalie Brian Elliott so far, but these are the moments for which the perennial All-Stars live.
Will Elliott nevertheless keep performing at a near-unconscionable level, though? The Blues’ late-season savior boasts a .954 save percentage throughout this matchup. In addition, St. Louis has outscored the Blackhawks 6-3 in the third period and overtime.
Playoff hockey prioritizes drive and determination, not neatly arranged narratives. Even so, it’s hard to watch the Note and, after countless letdowns, not think about destiny. We expect Hitchcock’s troops to finally the next step here.
THURSDAY NHL FREE PICK: BLUES -1.5