NHL Playoffs Picks: Blackhawks Will Take Series Lead Over Blues

Doug Upstone

Sunday, April 17, 2016 1:05 AM GMT

Come on, who didn't think St. Louis and Chicago would head back to the Windy City for the Stanley Cup playoffs first round battle tied at 1-1? Show of hands if you thought differently. Exactly!

The two games have been tighter than yoga pants on Jen Salter and even the change of venue does not figure to alter that situation once. St. Louis won the series opener in OT on a fluky goal off a Chicago defenseman's skate. In Friday night's contest, the Blackhawks won a very late challenge on apparent Blues goal, which kept the game tied at 1-1 and Chicago went on to even the series with 3-2 triumph.

This contest will be nationally televised on NBC at 3:05 Eastern and the NHL odds have Chicago at -150 with the total at 5. Who should be on your radar?

 

St. Louis Has To Grin and Bear It and Win What They Can Control
Though the Blues were fortunate to win Game 1, they did not get one call at home in the next contest. Coach Ken Hitchcock talked after the loss the Stanley Cup champions are going to get the benefit of the doubt on calls. In the past, this is where St. Louis would begin to unravel, but the players in the locker room kept their cool, talked about the first team to win four games in the series advances no matter what happens and seemed already focused on next encounter.

Once again the bruising Blues dominated the hits at 41-25 (now 82-49 edge) and it will be imperative to play the same way in the first period, especially since the Hawks figure to be flying. One area Coach Hitchcock will talk to his faceoff men about is winning more of them. After having a nice edge in the first game, St. Louis was outmaneuvered 36-28 in this statistic and if this happens on the road, if could be game over for the Blues.

Otherwise, St. Louis has to keep working to find more scoring chances with only three goals in six-plus periods.

Chicago Needs to Take Control Earlier and Ride Crawford
They don't call it the "Madhouse on Madison" for nothing and now with the playoffs here, the building called the United Center sounds like a jet talking off when Blackhawks are home.

On this ice, Patrick Kane and the other Chicago players look like they are gliding above the ice and are simply faster than everyone else, which is partially true. St. Louis knows if they allow the Blackhawks to play their game in the opening period, this could be a 2-0 or worse game after 20 minutes. Yet this is exactly what coach Joel Quenneville wants from his troops, apply unyielding pressure from his centers Artem Anisimov and Andrew Shaw, to also lead the charge when the first line centered by Jonathan Toews takes a break.

Goalie Corey Crawford missed 11 of Chicago's last 12 regular season games, but you would not know it with a .940 save percentage after two pressure-packed tilts and has looked like the netminder who was in the nets for the past two Cups.

 

What to Expect and Winner
The crowd will be in the game as will both teams, since Game 3 of a tied series will often determine the direction of a series. Chicago once again had a quality 26-15 record at home, but two of the defeats were at the hands of St. Louis, who was among the finer away clubs at 25-16.

To this point we have witnessed two close defensive dandy's and cannot think of one reason why we will not get another. As evenly matched as these two are and familiar with one another, this sure seems like another one goal outcome. With the Hawks 7-0 at home off a one goal victory, for NHL picks, Chicago is the right choice here.

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NHL Pick: Blackhawks -143
Best Line Offered: at Heritage