Originally written April 08, 2012 on centericechat.com:
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Welcome to Center Ice Chat’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions feature. The pickings are up for debate, and the projects are meant to be taken lightly, and engage further discussions. Please feel free to join in on the conversation. Brian Elliott and the St. Louis Blues have the advantage in the first round with a solid goalie tandem and depth on the blue line. The St. Louis Blues may have not captured the No. 1 seed as expected. But, in the end, it probably won’t matter. Regardless, they would have been seeded against a California team which has underperformed this season. The biggest difference, however, is that San Jose was on top of a home-away series against the Los Angeles Kings to close out the season. If anything, San Jose has momentum going in St. Louis. As for the Blues, they’re at one of the darkest points in bench boss Ken Hitchcock’s season with St. Louis. They’re 4-3-3 in the stretch of the last 10. They snapped out of a three-game losing streak with Saturday’s 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars. With Hitchcock, the Blues only suffered one other three-game losing streak, towards the end of the December, when they were bounced by the Red Wings, Predators and the Red Wings again. But the overall picture paints the Blues as a team destined to go deep into the playoffs. Their blue line is one of the highest, as a team with the fewest shots on average hovering around 26. Meanwhile, in the crease Jaroslav Halak has a goals against average of 1.97 with six shutouts and Brian Elliott is a 1.56 goalie in the GAA department with nine shutouts. It’s the best tandem in the playoffs that can rotate without missing a beat. However, when the Blues’ opponents — under the coaching of Ken Hitchcock — have scored three goals or more, St. Louis has a record of 3-10-8. That’s an issues that needs to be addressed. And the remedy so far has just been solid defense, unfortunately in games where they’re not soft in the back end. But to the contrary, the Blues are very successful when the offense breaks out, and have multiple wins with +3 goals. In fact, they’re 35-1-2 under Hitchcock when scoring three or more goals. In several instances they’ve scored four, five and six goals. In translation, if the Blues win on offense, it’ll come early and often. That’s why they’re picked to defeat the San Jose Sharks. Result: St. Louis Blues in 5 games. The Sharks gave it their all too late as far as attempting a crack at the No. 3 seed. If they had the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, the Sharks would have a greater chance advancing in the first round. The Blues, however, are quite adaptable. Their talent is diverse throughout with aged veterans and youngsters who compose a brilliant defensive-minded game. But if they let their guard down, the Sharks will be there to take advantage of any opportunities that may abound. Also, Hitchcock is the winningest coach this season with a .703 percentage. That helps, too.   Matthew Wilson is editor of Center Ice Chat. Follow him on Twitter @Mattjw24. Be sure to also Like us on Facebook and to Follow our Tumblr page. If you'd like to contribute, or appear as a guest columnist, please email us at CenterIceChat@gmail.com.
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