Potential Classic Series
The Chicago Blackhawks begin their quest for a 2nd consecutive Stanley Cup championship on Thursday by traveling to St. Louis to take on the Blues. According to NHL betting odds the defending champs are currently a +115 underdog to win this series, and the Blues are listed as a -125 favorite to advance. The Blues were able to win the first 3 meetings of the season between these teams, with 2 of those 3 coming via an overtime shootout. Chicago was able to bounce back and win the last 2 meetings including a 4-2 triumph on April 6th.
Concerning Scoring Drought
The St. Louis Blues were only able to score 22-goals combined over their last 14-games, and were shutout on 4 separate occasions during that stretch, including their final 2 games of the year. Following a 2-1 home win over Buffalo on April 3rd, the Blues were seemingly in the driver’s seat for the Central Division crown, and the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Then they proceeded to inexplicably lose their final 6-games of the regular season, and were outscored in those contests by a cumulative 22-5. When you consider the fact the Blues scored 10 of those 22-goals during their recent scoring drought in consecutive games versus Toronto and Minnesota, you begin to comprehend the depths they’ve sank offensively over the last 3 weeks.
The Blues made a late season blockbuster trade that brought them star goaltender Ryan Miller and gritty forward over from the Buffalo Sabres. Miller has long been regarded as one of the elite goaltenders in the world, and was acquired specifically for this time of the year. The former Sabre has gone 25-22 in 47 career postseason starts, which also saw his teams advance to the Eastern Conference Finals on 2 separate occasions. Miller was the past MVP of the 2010 Olympic Hockey Tournament in Vancouver, that saw his United States team deprived of glory on Canada’s Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal in the Gold Medal Game.
turn it on Once More
Winning the Stanley Cup in consecutive seasons hasn’t been done since the Detroit Red Wings accomplished the feat in 1997 and 1998. As a matter of fact the Red Wings are the only team to have won the Cup in back-to-back seasons over the last 21-years. However, as I stated on numerous occasions throughout the season, if any team in recent memory has a chance of repeating it’s this Chicago team. They had very little player movement from the team that won it all a season ago. They have an unheralded goaltender in Corey Crawford who proved all the critics wrong in last year’s postseason, excellent depth with their forwards lines, and a stout in addition to agile defense corp. There were times this season where this multi-talented team looked to be going through the motions, but considering the fact they’ve had a target on their heads all season, they’ve performed quite admirably in my humble opinion.
I just can’t seem to ignore the disparity in offensive firepower between these two teams. Chicago finished 2nd in the NHL averaging 3.2 goals per game, while the Blues offensive struggles have been well documented in this article. Granted that Ryan Miller is a huge upgrade in goal for the Blues in comparison to what they’ve had to work with in recent postseasons. However, Miller can’t help his team by putting the puck in the net, and that’s a monumental concern for Blues backers. Miller was less than stellar in his final 5 regular season starts with an extremely shaky .864 save percentage in those contests.
Free Hockey Pick: Chicago over St. Louis in 6-games