Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Imo’s Pizza Is Fucking Terrible: St. Louis Game Time
After two and a half weeks camped out on West Madison, the Blackhawks will once again take their traveling circus, white sweaters in tow, on the road. That particular road tonight is about 350 miles of I-55 down to the glorified outdoor flea market of St. Louis.
To say things haven’t gone smoothy for the Blues so far this season would be an understatement. Coming off of an unexpected Central Division title, Coach Jiminy Glick‘s crew has encountered just about every type of issue possible for a season barely over a month old. From scoring power outages, “effort” being questioned, to goaltending woes, to injuries, it’s always been something, and it’s been unrelenting.
Even just yesterday, both Andy McDonald and leading scorer (4G 12A) Alex Steen were hurt in practice, rendering both unavailable for tonight’s proceedings. That’s on top of wunderkind Vladimir Tarasenko already being out from still feeling the effects of running out of real estate along the wall in Colorado. Those three being out effectively cuts out their entire second line, leaving far more of the scoring load to the top line Cap’n Punchy David Backes, T.J Oshie, and festering boil David Perron. Even with the above trio of forwards out, tonight’s second tier of scoring will still feature the team’s leading goal scorer in Patrik Berglund with 9, and a revitalized Chris Stewart. Stewart has been resurgent this year, regaining his power forward form (Literally. He apparently had to shed quite a bit of goo in the off season), and has been quite a bit to handle on the forecheck, at least when he’s felt like it. The bottom six is pock marked by pests like Vladimr Svobotka and Matt D’Agostini who always manage to annoy on the scoreboard, and Ryan Reaves figures to be cut free from the dirty membrane in his birthing pool underneath Isengard to engage in 45 seconds of stupidity with someone in a white sweater.
On the back end for the Blues, for the first time in nearly a decade, they boast a true #1 defenseman in Alex Petrangelo. After being brought along slowly for seemingly eons, in his first two years Petro has shown himself to be the goods. Both air tight in his own end and a true quarterback in the other team’s, the only fault that might be able to be found in his game is that for as imposing a physical specimen as he is, he doesn’t exert that nearly enough. Fortunately for Petro, his partner, sentient Port-o-John Barrett Jackman, is more than willing to take physical liberties with the opposition, likely in the form of punching the smaller of them in the back of the head when they’re skating away. The Blues’ second pairing features their active leading scorer for tonight’s game, the pie-faced Kevin Shattenkirk. Shatty has got the wheels and the hands of a true playmaker from the point, but in his own end can be overpowered and forced to run around a little.
This will all be in front of Jaroslav Halak, who has remained upright for a little over a week now. Jaro has been fantastic for most of his tenure in St. Louis, but Brian Elliott being all jacked up on gamma rays last year masked how badly this team needs Halak to stay healthy, and a stiff breeze seems to do him in every couple of months. But when he’s on, he’s more than capable of stealing a game.
Looking up and down the Blues statistics is curious, because they only boast 6 plus-players, and none higher than Jackman at +5, yet they’re fifth in the league in scoring at 2.9 per game. And then seeing that the power play is operating at a simply ungodly 30% it all comes together. Having McDonald, Steen, and Tarasenko out may slow that down a little, but marching to the box as the Hawks have in the past few games is bound to spell certain death against this lot.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, the road goes ever on and on, with the only change in the lineup being hometown turd Brandon Bollig dressing tonight in favor of Jamal Mayers on the fourth line, presumably because Q thinks this game is going to require that sort of idiocy. This move is particularly stupid considering that Dave Bolland is still out tonight leaving the Hawks even thinner at center, and at least Mayers can win a draw and skate. Michael Frolik has been excellent on the fourth line, but he’s never been a center no matter how much Q wants him to be. The over under on the pointless Reaves/Bollig fight is at 7:30 into the first, or at 6 mentions of “Shitcago” in the SLGT game thread. Place your bets now.
Corey Crawford gets the start in the cage for the Hawks tonight. The goal tonight should be that he doesn’t spend nearly as much time facing the wrong way as he did on Sunday against the Jackets, as the Blues actually have the guns to not allow him to walk out with a shut out when doing so.
It’s been made pretty clear that the entire city of St. Louis is viewing this game and the potential to end the Hawks’ streak as important as a new Super Wal Mart opening. And if any team is built to do it, it’s the Blues. They employ a cannonball style forecheck that has given the Hawks defensemen fits and limit shots against better than anyone in the league. And they just might end it tonight. But the game plan is always the same against the Blues: absorb the opening minutes with the crowd baying for blood, counter-punch, get a lead, be smart, collected, and let them lose their shit. Which is why the first goal tonight will be of utmost importance. The Blues scoring first will send the building into orbit, and they’re a team built to not let you claw back.
Being shorthanded up front may limit the Blues, but it doesn’t cripple them, and the Hawks should recognize that. And if you need a place to rip your hair out tonight watching all of this go down, head to the Bottom Lounge to join Sam and Kills in doing so over a couple of pops. Let’s go Hawks.