Chicago Blackhawks (46-21-15) at St. Louis Blues (52-23-7)
|Date & Time||Thursday April 17, 2014, 8:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: St. Louis Blues -129 / Chicago Blackhawks +117 --- Over/Under: 5.5
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+ for only $4.99 a month. Sign up now!|
The Blackhawks and Blues open up their Western Conference quarterfinal series in St. Louis with both teams nursing injuries to star players.
The Blackhawks enter this series as the lower seed but in the eyes of many are the favourites to emerge victorious in the seven game set, largely in part to St. Louis’ freefall to close out the regular season. Chicago has been without Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for the last little while as both players were nursing injuries but both are set to be back in full health on Thursday for their playoff opener. Chicago are the defending Cup champs and have had a target on their backs all season long and while many suggest that playing as the defending champs warrants a target on your back every game of the season which can be very taxing it doesn’t seem to have that feel with the Hawks this season. There is no question that every team would love to beat the Hawks but they have flown under the radar of sorts thanks to teams such as Anaheim, San Jose, and Colorado so the bulls eye seems to have gotten smaller which to me is a huge plus for Chicago’s bid to repeat as Cup champs.
The Blues have been an absolute mess over the last two weeks as they lost their final six games of the season that dropped that them out of what looked like an inevitable division title that ultimately went to the upstart Colorado Avalanche. St. Louis has been littered with injuries of late as TJ Oshie, Alex Pietrangelo, David Backes, and Vladimir Tarasenko have all been on the sidelines and the availability of some of the team’s top players seems to be in question and if they are cleared to play how healthy are they going to be? St. Louis without question was one of the strongest teams throughout the regular season and when they brought in Ryan Miller it was thought that the Blues were a shoe in to win the Cup but Miller has struggled of late and now some people are questioning whether they should extend the former Sabres goaltender or not. Miller can get frustrated easily and isn’t afraid to speak his mind so if the Hawks can get on Miller early and often and force him to lose focus they could very well make this a quick series. I like Chicago to steal game one as they are the experienced club and should get a boost from the return of their top players.