NHL Round One Playoffs Preview: St. Louis vs. Chicago

It’s never going to be easy to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions. No matter how how badly they might plays, eliminating them will be one of the hardest tasks to complete in the playoffs.

For St. Louis, it will be especially difficult who are looking to break through in the postseason and move on beyond the first round, by defeating their division rival.

They’ll have two more chances to do it, one tonight on the road and the other, for them hopefully not, in a Game 7 on home ice. They nearly capitalized in the last game on Thursday night, but fell short in a double-overtime loss to the Blackhawks in Game 5. It was so close as the Blue came back to tie the game and get to overtime.

So the Blues can be said to have two more strikes, and they’ll do everything tonight to make sure they avoid reaching the final one.

“There’s no doubt that the longer this series goes, the more pressure will be on that team,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews. “But at the end of the day, they’re as hungry as ever. I don’t think if you ask any of them, they’ll say that any of that matters.

“It’s focusing on what we know we can do. It’s not worrying about anything beyond tomorrow night. The way we went into last night’s game, we told ourselves we just have to play one shift at a time and find a way to win tonight. It’s probably going to be another one-goal game the way we saw, a big winner by (Patrick Kane) there yesterday. Tomorrow’s the same thing. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll just focus on exactly what we need to do shift by shift.”

This loss came just a little than 14 hours after the Blues showed some confidence of their own, and they’ll have to be confident if they want to be able to come into Chicago and knock the Blackhawks off, for what would be a third straight time in Chicago, in Game 6 on a Saturday night, when the hockey world will be watching.

“It’s going to be fun here to win it in Chicago,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said after Thursday’s game. “That’s the game plan right now. Their backs are still against the wall. We’ve all got to flip the switch and get ready for Saturday.”

Despite losing Game 5 to the Blackhawks 4-3 on Thursday night, the Blues confidence definitely wasn’t bruised after the game since sudden-death overtime is anyone’s game.

Blues’ Pietrangelo said the Blues felt like they deserved to win Game 5. He was sure to let media know that’s how they felt ahead of Game 6 to be sure to get the attention of the Hawks.

While it may seem overly confident of them, it’s this type of determination that the Blues appear to have this spring as opposed to previous years past that the Hawks and Toews know has been so dangerous in the post-season.

But the Blues know they have a reason to be confident going into Saturday’s game since they have already defeated Chicago twice at the United Center in this series, in the regular season, won two of the three meetings in Chicago. They know their foe well.

The Blackhawks have had that same confidence since they won three Stanley Cups in the last 6 years, so no matter what they will be a team that is no less hungry to win another one, because they’ve been there and they’ve done that.

So it will be the Blues on test, who will be looking to capture their first title in franchise history, and the Blackhawks will be the biggest test as of yet, who surely won’t make it easy on them.

“Yeah, I agree,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson responded when asked if the pressure gets more intense on the Blues as the series goes deeper. “Just looking at the past, I think the team had a lot of pressure to make it past the first round. We’re still very hungry to go on a deep playoff run here. We’re not satisfied in any way with what we’ve accomplished in the past. It’s all about now and it’s all about what we’re going to do about this year and not what we’ve done in the past as I said. I think they’re feeling the pressure, but we just have to take one game at a time here and we got to bring a better game than we’ve done here at home. We have to get a win.”

“The hockey gods are testing us right now,” that’s how the Blues’ Pietrangelo is seeing it. “We’ll get ready for Saturday.” You can bet on them being ready and passing that test.

Our Pick: Blues over Blackhawks, 5-3