Chicago Blackhawks (48-26-6) at St. Louis Blues (49-24-7)
|Date & Time||Thursday April 9, 2015, 8:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: St. Louis Blues / Chicago Blackhawks --- Over/Under:
|TV Channel||Stream NHL games all season on ESPN+. Start your 7-day FREE trial today!|
After years of playoff disappointment, is this finally the year that the St. Louis Blues break through?
There are a lot of people in the hockey world that are expecting big things from the Blues in the post season this year, but once again their goaltending might be the most important factor.
Last year the Blues made a trade deadline acquisition of Ryan Miller, but still fell in the first round of the playoffs to the Chicago Blackhawks. Losing in the opening round was bad enough for the Blues, but to have a 2-0 lead and then lost four straight made it that much more difficult.
Tuesday night it wasn’t the goaltending, but instead the offense that let the Blues down. Jake Allen got the start in goal and was tremendous, but the Blues were shutout by the Winnipeg Jets in a 1-0 loss. Allen will get the start again on Thursday when the Blues take on the Blackhawks.
Brian Elliot has been the starter in goal for much of the season, and he’s put up some very good numbers despite their being obvious holes. Elliot clearly looks like a goaltender that is benefiting from playing behind a very good hockey club. While that’s not his fault, it’s hard to watch some of the goals he allows and feel like he’ll be able to lead this club to a Stanley Cup.
Over his last four starts, Elliot has surrendered four goals on 16 shots in a loss to the Jets, three goals on 16 shots in a loss to the Blue Jackets, three goals on 21 shots in a loss to the Canucks, and five goals on 32 shots in a 7-5 win over Dallas. That’s a not so sparkling .816 save percentage.
St. Louis isn’t going to stand a chance with that type of goaltending, regardless of how good the team on the ice in front of it is. Ken Hitchcock looks like he might finally be realizing that, and getting Allen going as this club heads into the playoffs is the right move.
In Chicago the Blackhawks haven’t had to worry as much about their goaltending, because their team defense has been exceptional all year long. Whether it’s Corey Crawford or Scott Darling, this club just doesn’t give up a lot to their opposition.
Tuesday night it was Crawford stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced, but Chicago’s skaters could only muster one goal in the 2-1 defeat. Bryan Bickell’s 14th goal of the season got the Blackhawks to within a goal with under two minutes to play in regulation, but it was too little too late for the Hawks.
These two teams looked to be on a collision course in the first round again until the Nashville Predators started to plummet. The Blues would love to avoid the Blackhawks early on, and a win on Thursday would certainly help ensure that.