NHL Playoffs – Know your opponent: St. Louis Blues
The Chicago Blackhawks-St. Louis Blue rivalry will add the newest chapter to their rivalry starting Thursday. The two teams will open up their Stanley Cup playoff run against each other when they face off in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the rivalry might have been dull in years past, this season it has heated up with both teams having good seasons.
The Blues to end the season as they finished on a six game losing streak. The Blackhawks on the other hand rallied off some wins as they looked to get their stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane healthy.
St. Louis Blues
Record: 52-23-7 (111 pts); Second in Central Division
vs. Blackhawks: 3-2
Series schedule (All times central) * – If necessary
Game 1: Blackhawks @ Blues; Thursday April 17, 7:05 p.m.
Game 2: Blackhawks @ Blues; Saturday April 19, 2:0o p.m.
Game 3: Blues @ Blackhawks; Monday April 21, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4: Blues @ Blackhawks; Wednesday April 23, 8:30 p.m.
*Game 5: Blackhawks @ Blues; Friday April 25, 7:00 p.m.
*Game 6: Blues @ Blackhawks; Sunday April 27, 2:00 p.m.
*Game 7: Blackhawks @ Blues; Tuesday April 29, TBA
- Blues goalie Ryan Miller has lost his last five starts of the season. In those five games he has a 3.58 goals-against average. He started one game against the Blackhawks this season.
- With a 2.92 goals-for average, the Blues rank ninth in the league.
- The Blues held a seven point lead on the Colorado Avalanche on April 7 but finished one point behind the Avalanche.
- The Blues were outscored 22-5 in their last six games and were shut out three times.
What impact will Ryan Miller have?
The Blues brought in goalie Ryan Miller to make a deep run at the Stanley Cup. Miller was great in his first eight games with the Blues but struggled to end the season. If he can get hot in the playoffs, it could cause the Blackhawks some trouble though. That’s a big ‘if’. The full blame for his bad play can’t go all on Miller however, as Blues blogger David Rogers thinks Miller has been a bit unlucky but does need to play better.
“His forwards and defense men have pretty much hung him out to dry,” said Rogers. “Though the Blues aren’t allowing a ton of shots, they are allowing glorious chances and breakaways. That point aside, Miller needs to be better. He should improve, but he’ll need help in front of him if the Blues hope to move on.”
Miller and Corey Crawford could be the two most important players in the series.
Difference maker for the Blues?
We all know about T.J. Oshie and how he had an impact for the USA during the Olympics, but he’s also been stellar in shootouts during the regular season. The big difference? There are no shootouts in the playoffs. Oshie’s play could be critical for the Blues this season, much like Miller’s play. But one Blues player to keep your eyes on is Jaden Schwartz.
The 21-year-old left winger tallied 56 points this season including a +25 for the season, good for 13th in the NHL. Schwartz has made tremendous strides on the season and is one of the most dynamic players on the roster.
“He may not light up the box score, but he’s often creating offensive opportunities out of thin air,” said Rogers. “The Blues are a team which thrives on second and third chances and Schwartz is one of the few players who can pull off something spectacular.”
Kane and Toews are back. Is that trouble for the Blues?
1. Get healthy. If this doesn’t happen, the series is over before it starts.
2. Play smart in your own zone. When the Blues are placed under pressure in their own end, bad things happen. Those things are usually bad passes to the opposition.
3. Put the puck on net. It’s absolutely incredible how many times the Blues miss an open net.
4. Composure. When the Blues are rattled and start trying to drop the gloves with anything that moves, expect a big defeat.