NHL Playoffs – Blackhawks Lurking for a Repeat Run
NHL Playoffs – Central Division
From the moment NHL realignment was announced, the Western Conference’s Central Division had the potential to be very competitive both in the long and short term. The Chicago Blackhawks were coming off their second Stanley Cup in four years and featured dynamic stars up front and on the blue line. The St. Louis Blues possessed a balanced roster with youth, veteran leadership, and one of the strongest core of defensemen in the league.
And, looking to the future, the Colorado Avalanche had the new wave of top prospects ready to take a leap into being relevant for the first time in years, led by fiery new coach and Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy. The new coach wasn’t hearing any of the two or three years down the line business, though. In fact, he often has problems hearing because of those Stanley Cup rings plugging his ears.
St. Louis Blues – Chicago Blackhawks Matchup
Entering the last month of the season, most fans were anticipating this would be the Central Divisional Finals pairing, but injuries to Blackhawks stars Jonathon Toews and Patrick Kane slowed them down. The Blues, anointed winners of the trade deadline when they solidified the goalie position by trading for Olympian Ryan Miller, saw their new netkeeper and the rest of their solid lineup crumble in the final month of the season and finish the year on a six-game losing streak.
Colorado took advantage to win the Central by a point, pairing these two early- and mid-season favorites in a first round series that’ll spell an early end for a would-be contender. The Blues won the first three regular season contests between the two by narrow margins, but Chicago won their final two contests. It won’t be easy, but look for the Hawks to push the already sliding all the way off the cliff and into a long, frustrating offseason of missed opportunity.
St. Louis – Chicago Season Series
|10/9/2013||Blues, 3-2||St. Louis||MO||Scottrade Center|
|10/17/2013||Blues, 3-2 (SO)||Chicago||IL||United Center|
|12/28/2013||Blues, 6-5 (SO)||St. Louis||MO||Scottrade Center|
|3/19/2014||Blackhawks, 4-0||Chicago||IL||United Center|
|4/6/2014||Blackhawks, 4-2||Chicago||IL||United Center|
Blues – Blackhawks Tickets
2014 Blackhawks – Blues Highlights
Colorado Avalanche – Minnesota Wild Matchup
After a few frustrating seasons that appeared to bury the memories of a Colorado Avalanche dynasty that once was, the young and dynamic Denver roster completed a worst-to-first turnaround that few fans expected even after the Avalanche ran over the competition in the season’s opening week.
A surge to finish the season just as strong now has Colorado on top of the Central Division mountain as the top seed in their bracket of the Stanley Cup playoffs with 83 (83!!!) more points to their name than they managed last year. (Yes, the lockout shortened the 2012-13 calendar and only had half the available points; but still, 83 points is pretty awesome.) Led by a talented, no nonsense coach in Roy who gave his team hope and expectations, Colorado may be ready to start a new period of glory days long before anyone expected.
As for their opponents, the Minnesota Wild have rolled out five different goaltenders this season but managed to steady their ship at just the right time. They’ll bring playoff hockey back to the American home of hockey and give the top seed a run, but they’ll be hard-pressed, even with stars like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter showing the way, to contain the Avalanche.
Colorado – Minnesota Season Series
|11/29/2013||Avalanche, 3-1||St. Paul||MN||Xcel Energy Center|
|11/30/2013||Avalanche, 3-2 (SO)||Denver||CO||Pepsi Center|
|12/14/2013||Wild, 2-1 (SO)||Denver||CO||Pepsi Center|
|1/11/2014||Avalanche, 4-2||St. Paul||MN||Xcel Energy Center|
|1/30/2014||Avalanche, 5-4||Denver||CO||Pepsi Center|