I'm no hockey expert, but allow this avid Chicago Blackhawks fan to relish his occasional (lucky?) moment of insight that I saw coming several weeks ago.
The Blackhawks advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Sunday, April 27, with a 5-1 win over its heated rivals, the St. Louis Blues. The matchup was seen by many hockey experts as one of two championship-caliber teams.
Indeed, the series delivered in every respect for serious — and casual — hockey. The six games were tightly contested affairs in which tempers flared and goals were hard to come by. It was hard-hitting but skilled hockey at its highest level.
Among the deciding factors was the play of the two goaltenders. St. Louis' Ryan Miller, acquired in a much-celebrated trade in late February, was outplayed by Chicago's Corey Crawford.
The night of that trade, I wrote in my blog that Miller's credentials were not significantly better than the goalie (of lesser reputation) he replaced.
"Miller's presence certainly gives St. Louis a leg up in securing the President's Trophy, awarded to the team with the NHL's best regular season record. But it may be another story once the Stanley Cup Playoffs start. ... In a seven-game playoff series, the margin for error is much smaller and the variables that can decide the outcome unpredictable," I wrote.
It wasn't supposed to be this way for the Blues, who felt they acquired a difference maker. St. Louis was one of the best teams in the NHL for most of the season but ended the regular season in a slump. Including the series with the Blackhawks, St. Louis lost 10 of its last 12 games.
As sterling as Miller's resume is, it didn't translate into success. It's frustrating for Blues fans to contemplate, but it's part of what makes playoff hockey so delicious.
The Blackhawks will next play either the Colorado Avalanche or Minnesota Wild. As a Blackhawks fans, I'm confident, but there's no telling what will actually happen. That's what makes watching so much fun, and I'm good with that. Go Blackhawks!