(Columbia Missourian)

One year after having to go through their storied rival in the first round to win their second Stanley Cup in four years, the Blackhawks now begin their title defense against a St. Louis team that has taken Detroit’s place as our most-hated franchise in the Western Conference.

Before I go any further, I’d like to point out that the Blues are the only franchise that was part of the 1967 expansion that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup. Ever. Not one. At all. That’s hilarious. Fuck them.

But despite St. Louis pissing down its own leg for the last 47 years, I think we’re all expecting another round of heart palpitations. I explained to Adam and Jim the other day that I’m unexpectedly calm heading into the matchup with St. Louis. It’s not because it comes in having lost their last six of the regular season and blew the division title in hilarious fashion, but more so because I have confidence in this Blackhawks team when at full strength. Once the broadcast starts, though, and I see all those meth-heads waving their towels, I’m going to start getting nervous.

In fact, by the time you read this, I’m sure I’ll slowly be beginning to freak out. Because that’s what I do.

Speaking of Adam and Jim, those bastards decided to record a podcast on a night I had to work, again excluding me from being able to share my feelings “on the air.” Below you’ll find Episode 11 of Cheer the Podcast.

In episode 11 Adam and Jim give you a full hour of playoff talk. Every series in both conferences gets at least a mention, some like the Wild and Avs gets extra time as we try to will Colorado into an embarrassing first round exit. The Blues and Blackhawks receive the majority of the attention in this episode between 19/88 returning to the lineup, Morin and Peter Regin on the 5th line looking in, the Black Aces and Ryan Miller’s potential for cinematic failure. Brent Seabrook gets a good five minute segment and literacy brought to you by Jim Mora is this week’s outro.


Which Hawks player do you predict will “Do a Bickell” and have a breakout this postseason?


Adam: Brandon Saad

Mike: Funnily enough, Bryan Bickell.. I think getting traffic in front of Miller will be key and Bicks is the man for the job.. it won’t surprise me if he ends up on one of the top two lines.  Good things will happen from there.

PM: Saad. I’d really love to see Morin continue his recent trajectory but I feel like the cauldron that is the WC could be the ideal environment for Saad’s strength and Hossa-esque qualities.

Nakis: Jeremy Morin. I have a feeling he’ll find his way into the lineup and some point, and I think he’s going to make an impact when he does. A skilled, sizable winger like Morin will be invaluable against teams like St. Louis, Anaheim and Los Angles. Additionally, I think Marcus Kruger is finally going to get his due from the national press. Dave Bolland isn’t around to steal his thunder and he’ll finally get the recognition he deserves for his stellar defensive play.

Bartl: If we’re just talking about the Blues series, I think Andrew Shaw has the potential to bust out. The Blues will be parading to the box, and Shaw will be parking in front of Miller on the power play. There’s a good chance with all those opportunities that he’s able to get some garbage goals around the net on tip-in and rebounds.

Which Blues player scares you the most (as a player, not a goon)?

Adam: If Dmitrij Jaskin was in the Blues bottom six I’d actually be tempted to say him because there’s a lot of damage he could do down there, but instead I’ll just go chalk and say Alex Steen. Oh, and whomever Kris Versteeg is assigned to check.

Mike: I’m a huge fan of Vladimir Tarasenko.. if he gets fit, then he’s a potential spoiler all on his own. He reminds me of Tyler Seguin in that he’s a dynamic young forward who tilts the ice his way whenever he’s on. So, if he gets healthy, the Hawks are going to have a much tougher time of it. He’s the key to the Blues Secondary Scoring.

PM: Miller. I’m pretty ambivalent on Mr. Big Time but I don’t think he even needs to stand on his head to be a major difference maker in this series. I know that the Hawks’ rolling PDO seems primed for a correction, but even a warmish streak from Miller could put that off.

Nakis: Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues actually have a really nice group of young forwards with Tarasenko, Dmitri Jaskin and Jaden Schwartz. One day soon, we’re all going to miss the Backes/Oshie/Jackman era Blues.

Bartl: I’m going to say Miller, and not just because I’ve been a fan of him since my freshman year at Michigan State when he led the Spartans to the Frozen Four and set the NCAA’s all-time shutout record. It’s because I think there’s going to be some motivation there for him to perform in the playoffs. He’s going to be a UFA following the postseason and wants to prove he can still play. A stellar series against the defending Cup champs surely would get him some nice paper.

Why won’t the Hawks win this series?

Adam: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are not 100% and/or get hurt during the series, the Hawks third pairing struggles against the ferocious forecheck of the Blues top 6, we get stupid in the physical game instead of relying on the finesse game, Ryan Miller turns in a 2012 Vancouver Olympics performance over six games, Chicago fails to get contributions in scoring from its bottom six while the Blues bottom six thrives and Joel Quenneville gets thoroughly outcoached while not dressing his 18 best skaters. Then, the Blackhawks will lose.

Mike: There hasn’t been much of a difference between these two this year. I honestly think the Hawks have too much for STL to deal with over a Playoff Series. However, if Q decides that he has to “Outmuscle” the Blues by giving too much TOI to the likes of Bollig and Handzus and ignores the fact that the Hawks can basically skate the Blues into oblivion..  well, yeah. That could get ugly. I guess Miller could turn into a brick wall, too.

PM: My main concern is that our bottom six runs dry. The Hawks’ biggest advantage over the Blues is their top-to-bottom production and how good well our bottom 6’s offensive production matches up with how they control play. The Blues, on the other hand, over delivered for a long time. I don’t see an earthly reason that can’t happen over a seven game series. I’m also very worried about closing out overtime.

Nakis: It’s not all that hard to imagine things going south for the Blackhawks. The Blues will certainly test banged up guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Is it really all that hard to picture Jonathan Toews skating off the ice after catching a vicious elbow from a knuckle-dragger like Roman Polak? Further, the depth scoring (Bickell-Shaw-Versteeg) could always enter another funk. Hell, 2012 Corey Crawford could show up. Now I’m worried again.

Bartl: The ‘Hawks aren’t going to fight back against this team – save for a bullshit Bollig-Reaves brawl – so I’m leaving that out. I really think if Miller stands on his head and the ‘Hawks panic with outside shots rather than being aggressive toward the net, the Blues can win this series.

How many starts does Brian Elliot earn?

Adam: If Chicago comes back from St. Louis with a 2-0 lead, I would venture to say that Elliott will start the remaining games in the series. Of which there likely will not be more than 3.

Mike: How many starts does Brian Elliot earn? If Elliot comes in for Miller, things are exploding in Missouri. There are honest questions out there about Miller’s temperament under pressure and if the Hawks can hang a bunch of goals on him early on, then they may come to the fore.  So I hope we see Brian in halfway through Game 1.

PM: I think Elliot gets one start, max, and only if the Hawks turn in a blow-out. Even then, I think Hitch goes back to the well in the next game.

Nakis: There is literally no goddamn way Brian Elliott sees the ice in this series.

Bartl: Zero. Not even a chance.

What are your two keys to the series?

Adam: Be a plus in the special teams game, meaning limit the penalty kills and cash in on the powerplays. Reply to physical challenges with extended stays in the Blues own zone.

Mike: 1) The Hawks stay smart and don’t try to play the Blues at their own level of idiocy. Looking at you, Brother Shaw.

2) Kane, Toews, Sharp. Hossa.. if only 50% of these guys kick in, then the Hawks will be impossible to live with.
PM: (a). Don’t get too fancy. (b) don’t get too fancy.
Nakis: The health of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and the discipline of the St. Louis Blues. If Toews and Kane are truly 100%, the Blackhawks will represent the toughest possible test for the Blues in the West. The job of Ken Hitchcock gets a exponentially easier if he doesn’t have to decide between checking the Toews or Kane line. As for the discipline of the Blues, Ken Hitchcock said it best.

Health and bottom-six play.

CtA’s Playoff Predictions

(graphics by mmD)





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Mighty Mike