Preview: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks

Blues goaltender Jake Allen (34) slides across to make a save on Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews (19). (Photo courtesy: Dennis Wierzbicki, USA Today Sports)

CHICAGO, IL – The St. Louis Blues (43-28-8) will close out their biggest rivalry in the league against the Chicago Blackhawks (34-33-12) at United Center at 7 pm. The Blues can pull even in points with the division-leading Winnipeg Jets and the Nashville Predators with a win with just three games left on the regular season.

The Blues had second place for a day after a 3-2 shootout win against the playoff-seeking Colorado Avalanche. The win was rookie Jordan Binnington’s 22nd, tied for most as a rookie in Blues history alongside his partner Jake Allen. That win also briefly put them in 2nd place in the Central Division, before Nashville’s victory over Buffalo bumped them back down.

Despite a great final surge to the end of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Tuesday. The Hawks had 18 wins in their last 30 games, but after an overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the comeback fell just short. Chicago will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year and look towards a lot of tough questions coming in the summer.

St. Louis and Chicago round up their five-game series tonight after not seeing each other since November 14th. Chicago took two of the three games in October and shut out St. Louis 1-0 in November, with St. Louis at 1-1-2 going into tonight’s finale.

Winnington

Jordan Binnington has been the talk of the NHL for the last two months, after getting Rookie of the Month honors in February and March. It’s the first time since 2006 a rookie earned the honor in back-to-back months. Binnington, projected for 29 starts with the season closing, has gone from a no-name AHL-er to a probable Calder Trophy finalist. His record sits at 22-5-0, with a 1.85 GAA (leads NHL) and a .928 save percentage (4th in NHL). His 22 wins ties the Blues record with his partner Jake Allen for most wins by a rookie goaltender. Binnington, stoic as ever, calmly recognized the elite company he was joining in his first year to STL-Today.

“I’m very appreciative [of the praise]. I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of games here in the final stretch of the season… I’m happy with this organization and this team, so we’re just going to keep working, keep our heads down, and stay composed.”

Downfall of a Dynasty

The Chicago Blackhawks’ last two seasons have been a landslide after failing to qualify for the playoffs again. The Blackhawks had the closest thing to a dynasty of successful hockey in this era, winning three Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. Superstars Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews have been at the helm of this franchise for over a decade, but the success of the early 2010s dwindled. Their roster saw many of their core players departing, including Artemi Panarin, Scott Darling, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa. Even with one of Kane’s career-best seasons with 105 points, the injuries to Corey Crawford put their goaltending situation in a tight spot for multiple seasons.

The Hawks made the playoffs after 2015, after losing an electrifying first round against the St. Louis Blues in seven games (shoutout to Troy Brouwer) in 2016. Then in 2017, the first-place Hawks were swept by the underdog Nashville Predators in the first round. After two first-round exits, the Hawks failed to qualify in 2018 after finishing dead-last in the Central. The pot boiled over after the firing of longtime head coach Joel Quenneville this year, who led them to all three of their Stanley Cups after starting the 18-19 season 6-6-3. With the coach gone and the roster stuck in limbo between youth and superstars, there’s a lot of questions surrounding the storied Original 6 franchise in the Windy City.

Gametime

The Blues and Blackhawks play in United Center tonight at 8 pm ET on national television. To follow tonight’s game, tune in to:

STL – NBCSN, KYKY 98.1, NHL.tv

CHI – NBCSN, WGN 720, NHL.tv

PROJECTED LINEUPS

ST. LOUIS

FORWARDS:

10 Schenn – 90 O’Reilly – 91 Tarasenko

17 Schwartz – 70 Sundqvist – 57 Perron

18 Thomas – 21 Bozak – 7 Maroon

20 Steen – 49 Barbashev – 12 Sanford

DEFENSE:

27 Pietrangelo – 29 Dunn

55 Parayko – 19 Bouwmeester

41 Bortuzzo – 4 Gunnarson

IN GOAL:

34 Allen

CHICAGO

FORWARDS:

88 Kane – 19 Toews – 91 Caggiula

11 Perlini – 17 Strome – 12 DeBrincat

20 Saad – 15 Anisimov – 95 Sikura

40 Hayden – 16 Kruger – 24 Kahun

DEFENSE:

2 Keith – 56 Gustafsson

5 Murphy – 53 Dahlstrom

7 Seabrook – 42 Forsling

IN GOAL:

50 Crawford

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