CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks don't feel like they won the lottery by getting the St. Louis Blues instead of the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Blackhawks ended up with the Blues because St. Louis dropped its last six regular-season games and the Avalanche went 7-1-2 in their final 10 games. The Blues were leading the Avalanche by seven points as of April 7.
"That's what everybody wants to talk about, but we're not going to think that we have an easier team to play against," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said on Monday. "That's definitely not going to be the case. They're a team that loves to play physical against us, and we've got to expect that. There's no reason why we can't return that as well. We'll be ready to bring that type of effort.
"It's going to be a tough game, a tough atmosphere to be a part of, starting out in St. Louis. We'll be ready for it. But I don't think there's any feeling of us facing a team that's not going to give us their best. It's going to take our best to beat them."
The Blackhawks had mixed results against the Blues during the regular season. The Blues defeated the Blackhawks in their first three meetings, with two those of victories coming in a shootout. The Blackhawks got the better of the Blues in their final two games.
The Blues do have home-ice advantage on the Blackhawks, and that could be a factor in the series. The Blues won both games in St. Louis this season. They scored a goal in the final minute of the third period to defeat the Blackhawks 3-2 on Oct. 9, and they rallied from a 5-3 deficit to score two goals in the final four minutes of the third period to force overtime and win 6-5 in a shootout on Dec. 28.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville put the emphasis on stealing home-ice advantage in Game 1 on Thursday.
"Game 1 is the objective," Quenneville said. "There were a couple of tough games in their building where it looked like we were getting something out of the games -- tough losses both nights. At the same time, we did a lot of good things in both those games. It's a big Game 1. Let's be excited about it."
The Blackhawks are aiming for a stronger start to this season's playoffs than they put forward in the opening round last season. The Blackhawks were disappointed with their early play against the Minnesota Wild in the Western Conference quarterfinals last season, winning the first game 2-1 in overtime and winning the series in five games.
"I would say we had an ordinary start last year in the Minnesota series," Quenneville said. "I think we've got to be ready to be hitting the ground running against this team. We had a terrific regular season last year and it seems like playoffs were the same pace. We've got to expect this is going to be a different pace."
Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane expects the Blues to be physical, but he believes it is important for the Blackhawks to stick to their style of game. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues in their past two games by dominating the puck. The Blackhawks had a 53.6 Corsi percentage (52 shots for, 45 shots against) in their 4-0 win over the Blues on March 19 and a 61.2 Corsi (60 shots for, 38 against) in a 4-2 win on April 6.
"I don't know if that's the kind of team we are [being physical]," Kane said. "I think there's not many games throughout the year, maybe a handful if that, where we're outhitting a team. And that's because we're a team that likes to play with the puck, have puck possession and create that way.
"I think the most important thing is to try to play our game and try not to be anyone else. We're not going to try to go up against them and try to play like the St. Louis Blues or the L.A. Kings. That's not the way we play around here. Obviously we want to be physical when we get a chance, especially on their top guys. And play hard. If we meet it, great, but the most important thing is to try and score more goals than them."