Do you have a fever? Perhaps the only prescription is more St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks.
If you haven’t seen enough of the bad blood between the two teams, you’re about to see a lot more. These two division rivals will meet twice in the final five games of the season, and that might just serve as an appetizer to their matchup in the first round of the playoffs.
Although a lot may happen in the final week of the season, it seems Nashville is likely to hold on to the Central Division title while St. Louis and Chicago hold off Minnesota for second and third. That sets up yet another postseason battle between these two teams.
Blackhawks fans will probably feel good about the matchup. For Blues fans, it may be the worst possible scenario; having to play the team that knocked you out last season and that seems to have your number, especially in big games.
Beginning Sun, the Blues and Blackhawks could be playing 7 of their next 9 games vs each other. That's as often Globetrotters and Generals.
— Frank Cusumano (@Frank_Cusumano) April 3, 2015
The extra dose of Hawks-Blues will certainly live up to the hype. They are two of the strongest teams in the NHL when healthy, and they both seem to raise the level of competition when they play each other.
The first possible playoff preview will take place Sunday night at the United Center, where the Blues have lost six straight games, including all 3 in last year’s playoff series. This brings up a major Achilles heel for the Blues. They have not won a road playoff game in almost three years.
With the Blackhawks within one point of the Blues in the Central Division, getting home-ice advantage over Chicago may be the biggest key down the stretch.
If that’s what it takes for the Blues to have a chance, it may be easier said than done. The Blues face a murderous schedule to finish the season. Besides playing Chicago twice, they also face desperate teams in Minnesota and Winnipeg. Chicago also plays the Wild, but their schedule also includes two of the NHL’s worst team, Buffalo and Colorado.
The Blues have an uphill battle if they want to stay in second place and keep home ice for the first round of the playoffs. Adding to their recent troubles are the injuries to Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko. Much like the end of last year’s regular season, the Blues are playing without several of their best players due to injury. In classic NHL fashion, both players are listed as day-to-day with “lower body injuries.” Coach Ken Hitchcock believes both forwards will be ready for the playoffs.
One player who won’t be back for a first round date between the Blues and Blackhawks is Patrick Kane, but the Blackhawks have moved forward just fine without him.
How do you define 'depth'? How's this; The Blackhawks are 11-4-1 since Patrick Kane broke his left clavicle on Feb. 24.
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) April 3, 2015
With guys like Toews, Hossa, Sharp and Saad all stepping up, the Blackhawks don’t seem to be phased by the loss of their leading scorer. Also a huge reason for their success without him is the excellent play of goalie Corey Crawford. The Stanley Cup winner is getting into playoff form as the regular season winds down. That is not good news for the Blues or whoever the ‘Hawks play in the first round.
As for the Blues, the goalie situation is anything but stable heading into the playoffs. Hitchcock has said that Brian Elliott is the team’s starter going forward, but with his recent struggles, backup Jake Allen has seen more starts, including a 4-1 win against Calgary Thursday night.
It will be very interesting to see what Hitchcock does with his goaltenders when the playoffs final do begin.
Sadly, if they play each other in the first round, one of the teams favored in Vegas to win the Stanley Cup will go home early.
Current Vegas odds Stanley Cup Blackhawks 9/2 Rangers 6/1 Blues 8/1 Canadiens 8/1 Wild 10/1 Ducks 10/1 Lightning 12/1 Islanders 12/1 #NHL
— Tommy Lorenzo (@sportsbooktom) March 24, 2015
It’s a shame that the NHL’s new playoff seeding works that way. This is a playoff matchup that could be a second round or even Western Conference final, but with the seeding, it may constantly be a pairing we see in the first round, so get used to it.