Can Blues fend off Blackhawks in Game 7?
The Stanley Cup playoffs typically produce equal parts agony and ecstasy. For a franchise like the Blues, however, numerous appearances have yielded nothing but despair.
It’s beginning to look as though the same weary path will be traveled in 2015-16. After letting Chicago score five unanswered goals over the weekend, St. Louis enters tonight’s Game 7 of the Western Conference quarterfinals trying to avoid another epic collapse.
Oddsmakers certainly aren’t sold on the Note’s ability to do so. Online sports book Bovada.lv actually gives Joel Quenneville’s visiting crew odds of -125 to move on, while the Blues typify slight +105 underdogs. The over/under total sits at five goals.
Ken Hitchcock’s club stormed out to a 3-1 series lead, but the Blackhawks’ 4-3 double-overtime victory on Thursday forced the series back to the Windy City. That’s where the defending Stanley Cup champions used a three-goal second period to claim a 6-3 verdict and set the stage for this evening’s winner-take-all finish.
Chicago is 2-2 under Quenneville in Game 7s, whereas St. Louis has failed to advance beyond the opening round in each of the last three years. With such a minute margin for error starting at 8:30 p.m. ET, it’s crucial to put those between the pipes under the microscope. Following a torrid four-pack of performances early in the matchup, the Note’s Brian Elliott suddenly stands on shaky ground. He’s allowed nine tallies in the past two affairs with an .871 save percentage. Corey Crawford was beaten thrice in the first 11 minutes of Saturday’s action, but the former Conn Smythe recipient steadied himself thereafter.
Will the Scottrade Center crowd be boisterous enough to give St. Louis that extra edge? Hitchcock’s oft-injury-riddled cast pushed and grinded throughout the regular season for this exact luxury: home ice in a climactic setting. The Blackhawks’ vast amount of experience ensures they won’t shy away from the bright lights, though, especially given the momentum culled from back-to-back Ws. Expect a tight-checking, brutal physical struggle that won’t swing toward one club or the other’s favor until the very late stages.
MONDAY NHL FREE PICK: BLACKHAWKS/BLUES UNDER 5 GOALS