Blues Playoff Bid Could Rely on Rival Blackhawks

The St. Louis Blues first hosted the Chicago Blackhawks early this season, at a time when hopes were still high for both teams. Chicago boasts the second-longest playoff appearance streak, with St. Louis trailing not far behind in fourth. However, a hugely disappointing season ensures that the Blackhawks will break their streak this year, and the Blues are in danger of following suit.

The Blues’ first game against the Blackhawks on Oct. 18 provided a glimpse of what this team brought to the beginning months of the 2017-18 season. Jaden Schwartz recorded his third career hat trick, and the game was put away with supporting goals from Vladimir Tarasenko and Kyle Brodziak.

After the initial matchup, the Blackhawks’ place in the standings continued to slide downwards while the Blues gained early momentum that faded quickly as the season progressed. The Blackhawks sit solidly in last place in the Central Division, and the Blues struggle to gain any ground in the race for a wild-card spot. Meeting the Blues two more times in the season’s final days, the Blackhawks have an opportunity to take their rivals down with them.

Typical Blues & Blackhawks Rivalry Game

Even with both teams at the bottom of the division at this point in the season, contests between the Blues and Blackhawks are never easy games, a fact that was proven on Sunday night at Chicago’s United Center.

Going into the game, the news of Tarasenko’s injury created some apprehension in St. Louis. Every point is crucial as the season winds down, and most were worried that the Blues might not be able to handle any more injuries at this point. However, the team was able to create numerous scoring chances without their star forward. Alexander Steen recorded a goal as well as three assists, and Vladimir Sobotka scored his 11th of the season.

A comforting sight throughout this Blues’ season, the defensemen made just as much of an impact on the scoreboard. Vince Dunn became the first Blues rookie defensemen to post four points in a single game since the 1987-88 season and only the 20th rookie to do so in the NHL.

Both Dunn and Alex Pietrangelo matched Steen’s stat of a goal and three assists for the night. Pietrangelo led his team into overtime, tying the game 4-4 with less than 90 seconds left in regulation. The Blues’ captain was just named the NHL’s first star of the week and leads the league with nine points in his last four games.

“We could have easily folded it up, honestly,” said Blues’ goalie Jake Allen. “I think a lot of teams probably would have. It takes a lot of you […] Two or three seconds left, they get a goal. But we know we’re fighting for our lives right now and every point’s crucial. It was a resilient comeback by everyone.”

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen
St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

To complete the resilient comeback, Patrik Berglund snuck the game-winning goal past J-F Berube with about a minute and a half left in overtime. The Blues fell behind the Blackhawks three separate times during the game but continued to battle for their two critical points.

Recent Playoff Games Against Blackhawks

The Midwest rivals have met twice in the postseason in recent history, featuring fairly lengthy and rough competition. After 12 years without seeing each other in the postseason, the teams met in 2014, which only seemed to add to the bad blood between the organizations.

The series kicked off with 100 minutes of hockey in game one, with Steen finally netting the game-winner 26 seconds into the third overtime period. The pattern continued throughout the series, with three more games being decided in OT. Luck seemed to favor the Blues at the start, who went up 2-0 but were then eliminated after Chicago won the next four straight to advance in the playoffs.

The two teams faced off in the first round once again two years later. In 2016, the Blues were able to find the upside of a seven-game series that also featured some extra hockey. This time, St. Louis knocked the Blackhawks out of the running for another Stanley Cup.

Blues Blackhawks 2016 playoffs
Blues / Blackhawks 2016 playoff series (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

These playoff meetings have featured not only loads of overtime minutes, but also plenty of infamous hits and scrappy play, which show just how badly they want to best each other. These instances of course include Brent Seabrook’s hit on David Backes in 2014 and the clash between Corey Crawford and Blues then-rookie Robby Fabbri in the 2016 series.

Blues’ Slim Playoff Chances

The Blues currently sit one point back from the second wild-card spot, and their probability of making the playoffs changes by the day. A seven-game losing streak in February is making it difficult for the Blues to climb their way back up, even after going 5-2-1 in their last eight games.

The Blues’ regular season wraps up with two games against the Blackhawks, followed by their very last game against the Colorado Avalanche, who are fighting to maintain their position in the first wild-card spot. They immediately look to continue their brief hot streak, meeting the Bruins this week and then facing back-to-back games this weekend against the Canucks and Blue Jackets.

Wrapping up these upcoming games with a couple of wins could offer the Blues a move up in the standings, since the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings are both just a few points away and face tough competition in the coming weeks against several strong Central Division teams.

“We have to put as many as we can together here. Even if we can grab a point out of a game somehow, it moves us up instead of staying put,” Allen added after the OT win in Chicago on Sunday.

As the season comes to an end, the urgency to get those points grows. While the Blues hope to close out their season by taking more points from their rivals, the Blackhawks have an enticing chance of “playing the spoiler” for St. Louis’s playoff hopes.