We interrupt this story for a disclaimer: this is a Blackhawks-Blues playoff series preview, or something kind of like it. But any chance of us telling you something about these two teams you don’t already know is purely coincidental.
See, whether you’re a fan of the Blackhawks or the Blues, you know plenty about each. That’s what happens when you have a longstanding division rivalry that will continue when the two face each other in the first round later this week.
You know these two don’t really like each other. It’s not the same level of hate that the Blackhawks had vs. Vancouver a few years ago (seriously, that was really nasty) but it’s not the diplomatic, milder hate the Blackhawks had vs. the Detroit Red Wings when they were in the Central Division. Granted, the dislike factor only grows each time these two meet in the postseason.
You know each team has plenty of skill, including über-talented Russian forwards. Artemi Panarin has been a welcome find for the Blackhawks this season, although the offensive boost he’s provided them is going to cost them some cash and cap next season (he secured $2.575 million worth of performance bonuses in Saturday’s regular-season finale). For the Blues, Vladimir Tarasenko is always a threat. Just ask the Blackhawks: in 15 games against them, Tarasenko has eight goals and five assists.
You know that this series is going to be a physical one because it always is. The Blues will dole out a majority of those hits, because that’s been a big part of their game for many years. The Blackhawks will absorb a lot of those hits, because that’s how most of the opposition tries to slow them down.
You know that, despite having their injuries this season both teams should enter this series relatively healthy. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Saturday night that he expects the Blackhawks’ injured parties (Marian Hossa with a lower-body injury and Andrew Shaw and Artem Anisimov with upper-body injuries) will be ready for Game 1. Robby Fabbri returned in the regular-season finale while David Backes should be ready for the series start.
What none of us know is who wins this time. Both teams have shown comeback abilities, be it the postseason or regular season, against each other. The Blackhawks overcame a 2-0 deficit against the Blues in the 2014 first round, and that was after the Blues came back in those first two games to take a 2-0 lead. This season the Blues have rallied to beat the Blackhawks twice: the first meeting in Chicago (a wild 6-5 overtime game won by Tarasenko) and the last meeting in Chicago (a wild-in-the-waning-minutes 2-1 overtime game won by Tarasenko).
So get ready for another series between the Blues and Blackhawks. It’ll be tough, it’ll be passionate and it’ll be entertaining.
But you already knew all of that, didn’t you?