2014 NHL Playoff Preview : Blackhawks vs Blues

Jonathan Daniel

The Blackhawks and Blues are set to do battle in the playoffs for the 11th time in their long rivalry.

(2) St. Louis Blues (111 pts, 52-23-7) vs (3) Chicago Blackhawks (107 pts, 46-21-15)

Series Schedule

Gm 1

Thursday, April 17 at 7 pm CDT

Blackhawks at Blues

Gm 2

Saturday, April 19 at 2 pm CDT

Blackhawks at Blues

Gm 3

Monday, April 21 at 7:30 pm CDT

Blues at Blackhawks

Gm 4

Wednesday, April 23 8:30 pm CDT

Blues at Blackhawks

Gm 5*

Friday, April 25 7 pm CDT

Blackhawks at Blues

Gm 6*

Sunday, April 27 2 pm CDT

Blues at Blackhawks

Gm 7*

Tuesday, April 29 (Time TBD)

Blackhawks at Blues

Regular Season Series

10/9/2013

@STL 3, CHI 2

10/17/2013

STL 3, @CHI 2 (SO)

12/28/2013

@STL 6, CHI 5 (SO)

3/19/2014

@CHI 4, STL 0

4/6/2014

CHI 4, @STL 2

Team Stats

GP

GF/60

GA/60

GD/60

GF%

CF/60

CF%

FF/60

FF%

SF/60

SA/60

SD/60

SF%

Sh%

Sv%

PDO

STL

82

2.87

2.26

0.61

56.00%

55.4

52.70%

41.1

53.10%

28.8

26

2.9

52.60%

9.90%

91.30%

101.3

CHI

82

3.13

2.54

0.59

55.20%

58.8

54.90%

43.6

54.70%

32.6

26.7

5.9

54.90%

9.60%

90.50%

100.1

Blues Players Stats

Player

Pos.

GP

G

A

P

TOI/60

S

FO%

Pen

PenD

Pen +/-

ShB

Hits

Jay Bouwmeester

D

82

4

33

37

23.7

152

75.00%

10

9

-1

106

51

Alex Pietrangelo

D

81

8

43

51

24.9

164

0.00%

12

10

-2

164

24

Kevin Shattenkirk

D

81

10

35

45

20.2

188

0.00%

19

10

-9

101

72

Jaden Schwartz

C

80

25

31

56

17.2

188

56.40%

12

17

5

32

54

T.J. Oshie

C

79

21

39

60

18.7

152

42.40%

21

40

19

54

77

Barret Jackman

D

79

3

12

15

17.6

83

0.00%

33

20

-13

130

96

Patrik Berglund

C

78

14

18

32

15.9

144

47.60%

19

9

-10

30

88

Derek Roy

C

75

9

28

37

13.4

114

47.00%

15

12

-3

30

13

David Backes

R

74

27

30

57

19.2

166

51.70%

43

29

-14

56

273

Roman Polak

D

72

4

9

13

17.1

83

0.00%

23

14

-9

131

151

Brenden Morrow

L

71

13

12

25

11.7

56

31.00%

31

22

-9

20

110

Maxim Lapierre

C

71

9

6

15

11

78

50.80%

20

9

-11

18

87

Alexander Steen

L

68

33

29

62

20

211

49.00%

23

39

16

28

43

Vladimir Tarasenko

R

64

21

22

43

14.9

136

33.30%

8

22

14

9

22

Ryan Reaves

R

63

2

6

8

8.4

25

75.00%

27

22

-5

12

211

Vladimir Sobotka

C

61

9

24

33

16.6

102

61.90%

29

25

-4

28

110

Magnus Paajarvi

L

55

6

6

12

10

60

33.30%

3

8

5

24

26

Ian Cole

D

46

3

8

11

14.9

45

0.00%

14

7

-7

68

24

Jordan Leopold

D

27

1

5

6

15.3

40

0.00%

3

5

2

24

8

Carlo Colaiacovo

D

25

1

3

4

14.9

18

0.00%

9

4

-5

26

29

Steve Ott

C

23

0

3

3

14.3

28

59.70%

9

6

-3

6

52

Chris Porter

L

22

0

1

1

10.2

24

30.00%

0

1

1

3

68

Adam Cracknell

R

19

0

2

2

8

16

37.00%

0

3

3

8

33

Dmitrij Jaskin

R

18

1

1

2

10.4

18

50.00%

4

3

-1

5

40

Ty Rattie

R

2

0

0

0

11.1

4

0.00%

0

0

0

0

1

Keith Aucoin

C

2

0

0

0

13.3

1

60.00%

0

0

0

0

0

Blackhawks Player Stats

Player

Pos.

GP

G

A

P

TOI/60

S

FO%

Pen

PenD

Pen +/-

ShB

Hits

Patrick Sharp

R

82

34

44

78

18.6

313

54.60%

18

19

1

27

55

Brent Seabrook

D

82

7

34

41

21.9

149

0.00%

14

8

-6

142

171

Nick Leddy

D

82

7

24

31

16.1

123

0.00%

5

8

3

45

52

Brandon Bollig

L

82

7

7

14

10.1

109

100.00%

29

17

-12

22

203

Marcus Kruger

C

81

8

20

28

13.6

96

56.70%

18

13

-5

70

22

Niklas Hjalmarsson

D

81

4

22

26

20.9

98

0.00%

18

5

-13

157

39

Andrew Shaw

C

80

20

19

39

15.4

149

43.30%

30

31

1

16

168

Duncan Keith

D

79

6

55

61

24.2

198

0.00%

14

8

-6

89

36

Brandon Saad

L

78

19

28

47

16

159

41.00%

10

23

13

20

48

Johnny Oduya

D

77

3

13

16

19.8

83

100.00%

19

8

-11

114

49

Jonathan Toews

C

76

28

40

68

20.1

194

57.30%

13

22

9

20

29

Ben Smith

R

75

14

12

26

12.5

90

50.80%

1

13

12

58

40

Marian Hossa

R

72

30

30

60

17.9

242

33.30%

11

8

-3

26

43

Patrick Kane

R

69

29

40

69

19.2

227

50.00%

11

15

4

15

16

Kris Versteeg

R

63

10

19

29

13.9

110

47.00%

12

17

5

18

23

Michal Handzus

C

59

4

12

16

13.4

50

49.50%

9

9

0

55

35

Bryan Bickell

L

59

11

4

15

11.1

93

50.00%

11

9

-2

10

105

Sheldon Brookbank

D

48

2

5

7

12.7

43

0.00%

14

12

-2

38

64

Michal Rozsival

D

42

1

7

8

16.5

39

0.00%

15

4

-11

43

67

Jeremy Morin

L

24

5

6

11

9.1

46

66.70%

8

13

5

2

20

Peter Regin

C

17

2

2

4

10.3

16

55.30%

1

5

4

7

19

Joakim Nordstrom

C

16

1

2

3

11.4

26

37.00%

1

1

0

7

17

David Rundblad

D

5

0

0

0

8.2

4

0.00%

0

0

0

3

6

Matt Carey

L

2

1

0

1

9.6

1

47.60%

1

0

-1

0

2

Goalie Matchup

Ryan Miller (25-30-4, 2.64 GAA, .918 save %, 1 SO) vs Corey Crawford (32-16-10, 2.26 GAA, .917 save %, 2 SO)

Everyone expected to see the Blackhawks take on the Blues at some point in the playoffs this year, but no one would have guessed it would be in the first round.  Just two weeks ago the Blues had the Central Division all but wrapped up and had their sights set on the President Trophy.  Then the injuries began to pile up, the goals stopped coming and the wheels fell off. The Blackhawks have had their share of adversity having to play without Patrick Kane since March 19th and Jonathan Toews since March 3oth.  Instead of falling apart like the Blues, the Hawks went 4-2 without their top two players.

The Blues were outscored 22 to 5 during their six game losing streak to end the regular season. They took the ice in their regular season finale against Detroit without Brendan Morrow, T.J. Oshie, David Backes, Derek Roy, Vladimir Sobotka and Vladimir Tarasenko.  Ken Hitchcock told the media that he expects all of these players back at some point in the series against the Blackhawks, but how effective will they be?  The same question can be asked of Chicago's injured stars, Toews and Kane.  We are going to cringe the first time Toews takes a big hit to his injured arm, which should be about six seconds into his first shift Thursday night.  I am a little more concerned about Kane's injury because he is a player that relies on his legs to create plays.  All the reports from the practice ice have said that he is not showing any rust but we will see how he reacts to his first game action in nearly a month.   Joel Quenneville is obviously concerned about the Blues taking runs at Kane since he has him on a line with both Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw.

The Blues hold the edge in the regular season series with three wins to two, but only one of those wins came in regulation as the other two were via the shootout.  The Blackhawks have to been encouraged with the way they played St. Louis this year, especially in the last two meetings.  They outscored the Blues 17 to 12 in their five game series including beating them by a combined 8 to 2 in their final two meetings of the season.  There has been a lot of talk and concern about the Blackhawks' struggles in overtime this year, as they scored only once in overtime during the regular season.   The Hawks will not have to worry about the shootout or having to play four on four in overtime anymore.  The Blackhawks are one of the best five on five teams in the NHL, so I wouldn't dread any extra time from here on out.

A major key to this series is going to be secondary scoring, which favors the Blackhawks.  The Blues have had their problems scoring any goals of late but they don't have the scoring depth the Blackhawks do.  St Louis does have plenty of firepower with Oshie, Backes, Tarsenko, Alex Steen and Jayden Swartz but the Hawks hold an advantage on their "bottom six."  I will roll the dice with Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw, Kris Versteeg and Ben Smith over guys like Ryan Reaves, Brendan Morrow, Maxim Lapierre and Derrick Roy.

The Blues made a big splash at the trade deadline when they acquired Steve Ott and Ryan Miller from the Buffalo Sabres.  Many hockey pundits said this was the move that put them over the top.  Miller was very good at the start of his tenure in St. Louis, but has been shaky to say the least with a save % of just .831 in his last five starts of the season.  Ott has not offered much to this lineup, as he has only tallied three assists and is a -3 in his 23 games with the Blues.

Ryan Miller has been pretty good in the post season going 25-22 with a 2.47 GAA and .917 save %, but it has been three years since he has faced the pressure of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  His counterpart, Corey Crawford was the only goaltender to register 16 wins in the post season a year ago and has been solid all season long.  Crawford has been a very good playoff goalie as he has a career record of 21-15 with a 2.04 GAA and .924 save %.

The Blackhawks have the edge when it comes to depth on the blue line.  The Blues' defense is anchored by the top pair of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo, who will log a ton of minutes during this series.  Kevin Shatterkirk is a solid two way defenseman on the second pairing.  The remainder of the St. Louis defensive core includes physical players like Barrett Jackman and Roman Polak who are big hitters but can be taken advantage of.  The Blackhawks have one of the top defensemen groups, from top to bottom, in the NHL. They are led by Norris Trophy candidate Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, who struggled this season but has a great track record come playoff time.  Their second pairing of Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya will get the majority of the tough assignments and defensive zone starts during the series.  Nick Leddy has enjoyed his best all around season and has vastly improved his play in his own end.  Michal Rozsival will most likely get most of the starts in the sixth slot, as he played his best hockey of the year during the post season a year ago.  He is a big veteran who is rarely out of position and will not be intimidated by the physical play of the Blues.

The Blues are a rare team to be ranked in the top ten in both the penalty kill and the power play.  The Blues had the best penalty kill rate (85.7%) of the sixteen teams who made the playoffs.  Only the New Jersey Devils had a better penalty kill during the regular season.  The Blues scored 56 power play goals during the regular season, tied for the fourth most in the NHL.  The Blackhawks special teams has been a tale of two halves.  At the start of the year the power play was deadly but the penalty kill struggled while trying to find new pieces to replace departed players.  Shortly after the calendar flipped over to 2014, the Hawks' special teams started to resemble the 2013 version where the penalty kill was lights out while the power play looked lost at times.  I have always said if I could only have one part of the special teams clicking I'd rather have a top notch penalty kill.  Hopefully the return of 19 and 88 give the power play a shot in the arm.

The Blues have fallen flat on their faces down the stretch but they are still one of the best teams in the NHL and will not be easy on the Blackhawks.  They are going to try and beat up the Blackhawks and bait them into taking penalties. The Blackhawks did ok at staying out of the box against the Blues giving them a total of 16 power play chances in their five meetings, giving up four power play goals.  The Hawks have the experience edge as they know what it takes to finish off an opponent this time of year.  If things go bad for the Blues, you can't help but think they are going to get that "here we go again" mentality and be visited by the ghosts of past playoff failures.   My heart says Blackhawks and my head agrees, the champs move on in six games.

As an added bonus, Jen has put together some advanced stats for both teams.  As always, I thank her for taking the time and putting these together for us.

BLACKHAWKS

iCorsi Leading 5v5

BLUES

iCorsi Leading 5v5

HOSSA

19.355

STEEN

17.617

SHARP

19.153

TARASENKO

16.763

KANE

15.228

BACKES

11.778

BICKELL

14.623

BERGLUND

11.743

VERSTEEG

13.947

PAAJARVI

11.274

BLACKHAWKS

iCorsi Trailing 5v5

BLUES

iCorsi Trailing 5v5

BICKELL

20.76

TARASENKO

20.385

SHARP

20.593

STEEN

17.88

KANE

19.44

SOBOTKA

16.569

HOSSA

16.893

BERGLUND

15.569

BOLLIG

15.133

SCHWARTZ

14.673

BLACKHAWKS

iCorsi Close 5v5

BLUES

iCorsi Close 5v5

MORIN

19.657

STEEN

16.85

HOSSA

17.946

TARASENKO

16.119

SHARP

17.492

SCHWARTZ

13.896

KANE

16.606

SHATTENKIRK

13.38

BICKELL

15.759

SOBOTKA

12.921

BLACKHAWKS

P/60 Leading

BLUES

P/60 Leading

VERSTEEG

2.79

OSHIE

2.93

TOEWS

2.75

SCHWARTZ

2.89

SHARP

2.63

STEEN

2.67

HOSSA

2.53

BACKES

2.53

SHAW

2.29

TARASENKO

2.47

BLACKHAWKS

P/60 Trailing

BLUES

P/60 Trailing

KANE

3.05

TARASENKO

3.65

TOEWS

2.86

BERGLUND

2.12

SHARP

2.67

SOBOTKA

2.07

SAAD

2.09

SCHWARTZ

1.94

KRUGER/HOSSA

2.05

COLE

1.64

BLACKHAWKS

P/60 Close

BLUES

P/60 Close

KANE

2.41

STEEN

2.36

TOEWS

2.14

BACKES

2.11

HOSSA

2.05

OSHIE

2.06

SHARP

1.99

TARASENKO

1.72

SAAD

1.81

ROY

1.66

*MORIN (small sample size but 1.87 P/60 Close)

**data from stats.hockeyanalysis.com

SB Nation 2014 NHL Playoff Bracket

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