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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CHICAGO – Playing their last game before Christmas break, the Winnipeg Jets were looking at a tough task playing one of the hottest teams in the NHL in the Chicago Blackhawks who were 7-1-1 in their last nine games. The Jets were coming off a tough loss in which they blew a third period lead and lost in overtime needed a huge performance from everybody and they got it as they surprised the Hawks with a 5-1 victory , a nice early Christmas gift and a well deserved two points.

“We look at all year long, it was one game that will stick out that it was one of those nights that we didn’t have much going for us across the board, early and often,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Dig a [3-0 or 4-0 deficit] against you, you’re not going to win many games.”

Michael Hutchinson was once again spectacular in the pipes for Winnipeg stopping 38 shots to earn the victory and improve his record to 8-2-2 on the season. His last outing in Chicago he got his first shutout with a 1-0 win. United Center is a good rink for him.

Corey Crawford started the game for the Blackhawks and gave up three goals in the first period facing 13 shots and was pulled with four minutes left in the opening frame and replaced by Antti Raanta who gave up one goal on 12 shots in just over two periods of work.

The Jets came out firing on all cylinders against the Blackhawks and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first on goals by Mathieu Perreault who got his 7th as he went high glove on Crawford, Bryan Little ripped his 13th of the season, Anthony Peluso got his 1st, Perreault got his 2nd of the game 8th of the season on the power play to make it 4-0 in the second, Blake Wheeler finished out the scoring his 10th into an empty net.

“[He’s] real confident with the puck now, getting it off his stick quick and no second-guessing,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said of Perreault. “We need that. He’s such a good guy in the room. He works so hard. That’s the big thing. For not a big man, he just fights for every puck and when he scores, the guys appreciate that even more.”

The Hawks got their lone goal from Marian Hossa who scored his 7th.

“I had a little bit of a rough start to the season, but as of late it’s been going well,” said Perreault, who heated up offensive after Maurice switched him from center to left wing on the second line. “I’m playing with [Mark Scheifele and Michael Frolik], two great players I’ve mentioned so many times. It’s clicking for our line, so we’ll just go with it.”

The Jets dominated the first period before the Hawks took over and pressed the Jets for the final forty minutes and if not for the cool and calm play of Hutchinson this could have been a very high scoring game as the Hawks had 20 shots in the second period alone, Hossa and Patrick Kane had nine shots between them and were both stymied by big stops on numerous occasions.

“They had some good chances, but a lot of them didn’t even get to the net,” Hutchinson said. “Our backcheck and our [defensemen] did a great job of intercepting their passes and just disrupting it enough so they couldn’t get a shot off. That is huge for us, just being prepared to play good defense knowing how much offense the other team has.”

Dustin Byfuglien had another monster game for the Jets as he had a game high 28 minutes of ice time was a plus three and had an assist. He was sure up for this game against his former team. He also made some big defensive plays and had some thundering hits.

The Jets improve to 18-10-7 on the season good for 6th in the West and will have a huge home and home against the Wild right after Christmas.

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