Chicago and St. Louis played a thoroughly entertaining Game 1 of their Stanley Cup playoffs series, with the Blues finally winning in OT 1-0. It was a peek as to how this series will start and now how adjustments will be made.
When looking at the daily NHL odds, this is the very essence as to how playoffs in professional sports work. You play the same team over a series of games and when you lose, the coaches and players have to understand what changes need to be made. If you won, you seek to tighten up elements that can be improved on and anticipate what your opponent might attack. Before making NHL picks today, know how each teams will attack the other.
The Blackhawks left the ice at the Scottrade Center wondering how they lost despite outshooting 35-18. Chicago had a number of very good chances to score on goalie Brian Elliott, but less than a handful of what would be thought of as “great” opportunities.
What coach Joel Quenneville will be preaching to his team is being smarter on the ice and not being in position to take so many hits. “Hits” are an NHL stat and the Blackhawks were outhit 41-24 by St. Louis in the series opener. Often these hits knock a player off stride or into the boards, which takes him out of the flow of the action or at the very least has him in trail position for offense or defense.
If Chicago avoids the hits, they could have one more player in the offensive end more often and that might be enough to make Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews more effective.
The return of Duncan Keith only makes the Hawks defense better and stronger.
The Blues accomplished what they needed in Game 1, have Elliott stymie Chicago shooters, lay the wood to the Blackhawks by being physical and taking 32 of 59 faceoffs (54.2%) to help control the puck.
Elliott shutting out Chicago is impressive, yet the fact remains if the Kane’s crew keeps averaging 30-plus shots a game in this series, the Hawks have too many talented goal scorers for St. Louis netminder to hang in under that barrage.
The Blues might be built for defense, but they will have no chance at the United Center or even tonight unless they possess the puck more and work harder on generating more scoring chances and possibly place their rivals on the defensive.