Why the Hawks should beat St. Louis

  • Patrick Kane (left) and Jonathan Toews are the two biggest reasons the Hawks have the upper hand against St. Louis in their first-round playoff series.
Patrick Kane (left) and Jonathan Toews are the two biggest reasons the Hawks… (US Presswire )
April 16, 2014|By Alex Quigley | For RedEye

Many Blackhawks fans are nervously comparing this year's very good team to last year's unbelievable Team of Destiny. They're glancing at the standings, seeing a third-place finish in the Western Conference and preparing for a short playoff and playoff beard run.

But fear not, fearful fearing persons: Not only do the Blackhawks have a good chance of dispatching the big, bad St. Louis Blues, but here's why they should be favored in this series.

THE BLUES' SWOON

Two weeks ago, it seemed inevitable that the Blues would win the Central Division. On April 4, they led Colorado by seven points with six games to play. The Blues have scored only five goals since then. In their past nine games, they've scored 2-1-2-0-2-1-2-0-0 goals.

Their freefall isn't just entertaining, it's historic: Since the introduction of the shootout, no NHL playoff team has lost its final six regular-season games in regulation. And things didn't go well for the two nearest comparisons.

>> In 2006, the N.Y. Rangers lost their last five in regulation. They were swept in the first round.

>> In pre-shootout 2002, the No. 2-seed Philadelphia Flyers bombed in their last 10 games, going 2-7-1. They lost their opening round in five games against lowly 7-seed Ottawa, scoring 1-0-0-0-1 goals in those contests.

OVERTIME? NO PROBLEM

The Blackhawks' regular-season struggles in overtime and the shootout cost them many points by season's end. With 15 overtime/shootout losses, no team in the playoffs left more points on the table. In the postseason, four-on-four overtimes and skills-competition-points go away.

The gloriousness of playoff overtime gives us full five-on-five hockey until a goal happens, and Chicago's been better than St. Louis in five-on-five hockey the whole season, let alone recently.

THAT HURTS

The Blackhawks are far healthier than St. Louis at this point, with Chicago resting dinged-up players over the weekend and giving Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane extra rest to deal with somewhat serious injuries.

The Blues, meanwhile, needed to keep the pedal to the metal in an attempt to win the Central and avoid the defending champs in the first round, yet they still had 10 (!) scratches on their roster for Sunday's division-title-blowing loss to Detroit. Six of their top 13 scorers are questionable at best for Game 1 on Thursday, including captain David Backes and forward T.J. Oshie. Even if all return, they'll certainly be at less than 100 percent.

HOME ICE NOT ENOUGH

What about home-ice advantage, you ask? Doesn't that favor St. Louis? Well, teams still do play better at home than on the road, but the differential has dropped over the years. And in Game 7s since the 2004-05 lockout, home teams are only 12-12. That's no advantage for the Blues.

PREDICTION

Longtime Hawks fans are hesitant to make predictions of bravado regarding their favorite team. They'll be the ones yelling at me in the comments sections, on social media and in person on the Metra.

But all I can see are positive signs for the Blackhawks and bad things, man, for the Blues. I'm certainly not ready to say "repeat," but I'm confident in a dominant Blackhawks-in-five series win.

RedEye special contributor Alex Quigley can be heard from 1-3 p.m. weekdays on 87.7-FM The Game.

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