Key Matchup-

The focus of the Blues will be to shut down Art Ross winner Patrick Kane, who finished with a career-high 46 goals and 60 assists, and that responsibility will fall to Alex Pietrangelo. Kane prefers the control of having the puck as much as possible, and it will be Pietrangelo who will need to manipulate Kane into rushing shots he isn’t ready to take.

Chicago Blackhawks-

Winning Formula: 

The Blackhawks are stacked with talent with the likes of offensive weapon Patrick Kane, phenomenal two-way center Jonathan Toews, and premier defenseman Duncan Keith. Corey Crawford remains at the top of his game in the crease. Added defense comes from the skilled Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov on Keith’s line adding more dimension to the team’s defensive game. Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, and Tomas Fleischmann add new depth to an already tremendous team and it will be interesting to see how Joel Quenneville chooses to use them throughout the series.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

The Blackhawks are a modern day dynasty with three Stanley Cup wins since 2010, but has not won in two years. They have players from those previous wins in their ranks, but the question is if it’s been too much; too much play and pressure taking a toll on a star studded team. The Hawks have averaged 16.7 playoff games per season since 2009-10, and Kane, Toews, Keith, Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa have been roster pillars for each of those runs. The playoffs mean less time off of arguably the most physically and mentally demanding major sport in the world.

St Louis Blues-

Winning Formula:

This is not a David vs Goliath series. The Blues are a force to be reckoned with. Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri provide youth and jump on the wings. David Backes, Colton Parayko, Troy Brouwer add size to the team. Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera are playmakers. Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester make up a blueline that is both strong and mobile and able to manipulate adversaries; while every line plays some degree of a defensive game including the team’s offensive lines. St Louis has never finished worse than seventh in goals against since Ken Hitchcock took over coaching duties in 2011-12.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

St. Louis averages the fewest goals per game of any franchise in playoff contention. The team has dealt with injuries, players getting older such as Backes, and players like Fabbri and Dmitrij Jaskin being too inexperienced to be true weapons in a battle such as this. Criticism is aimed at GM Doug Armstrong who did not address the glaring scoring issues this team has at the trade deadline. Jake Allen in the crease has come into his own when Brian Elliot wasn’t in the position over the last season, but looking at his .904 save percentage in the 2015 playoffs, losing four of six starts it’s understood that he cannot perform that way in this series if the Blues want a shot at round two, lucky for the St Louis they have Elliot on hand if Allen doesn’t live up to his last season’s performance.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

 

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Fluke goal stuns Jets

ST. LOUIS – This game could down as the one that got away for the Winnipeg Jets as they saw tons of rollercoaster emotions throughout. Down 4-1 to the one of the best teams in the Western Conference heading into the third period, the Jets battled all the way back to tie things up, only to see a fluke goal with a minute left hand them a 5-4 loss.

This could also be that game that costs them a playoff spot as every point is crucial now.

“It’s a tough loss,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “They were clearly better in the second and we were better than they were clearly in the third. We didn’t skate in the second and they didn’t skate in the third.”

Michael Hutchinson started the game for the Jets but was pulled in the second after giving up four goals on seven shots. He was replaced by Ondrej Pavelec who looked spectacular stopping everything the Blues were shooting at him until he lost sight of a long bomb with a minute left, he stopped 19 of 20 in a period and a half of work taking the loss.

This was a tight checking, very physical game as expected although all the offence was a bonus. There were a lot of big hits and even a main event heavyweight battle between Ryan Reaves and Anthony Peluso; a great scrap that got both benches and the fans going. Both teams were 1-5 on the power play , it seemed like the Jets did a fantastic job late in the third as they were shorthanded quite a bit even killing off a 5-on-3 for a minute and a half.

Buckets and Blades Hockey Store

Winnipeg got goals from Michael Frolik his 16th, Andrew Ladd his 23rd, Lee Stempniak potted his 10th and first as a Jet, Blake Wheeler notched his 19th.

“That’s hockey man, you know,” said Wheeler, whose shorthanded goal tied the game 4-4. “They outplayed us in the first two periods, but it was an opportunity for us to build some momentum going down to Florida regardless of what the score ended up being. It was a great effort by our team.

“That’s hard. That’s so hard coming into the middle of the game. You’re stone cold, and he made some big saves to give us a chance to tie the game, so no one feels worse than [Pavelec] right now. We need to rally around him and get his back up because we don’t tie that game without him. It’s a crazy game, stuff happens.”

Blues goal scorers were Jaden Schwartz his 23rd , Jori Lehtera his 10th , Steve Ott his 3rd , Vladimir Tarasenko his 33rd , Barret Jackman his 1st of the year.

Tyler Myers played another strong game for the Jets logging just under 28 minutes and picking up an assist on Wheelers shorthanded marker. He also made a couple of big defensive zone plays as well he dropped the gloves and laid a few on Alex Steen.

The goal by Jackman which was off a faceoff in the neutral zone and looked like a dump-in that Pavelec didn’t even see as it went in the top corner over his glove.

“I just tried to get the puck in and give our forwards an opportunity,” Jackman said. “It so happened their [goalie] lost track of it. We’ll take it any way we can.

“When I threw it in there, I thought [Pavelec] was just kind of surveying the play and was just going to grab it and flip it to the side. It just kind of floated over the glove. He obviously didn’t get a good look at it.”

This goal could be the last breath as the Jets now see their hold on the final playoff spot dwindle down to one point over LA who have a game in hand still.

The Jets will look to regroup on Thursday in Florida and get back on track.

Follow me on Twitter @hrank94