RECORDS: Hawks 6-2-2 Blues 2-4-3
PUCK DROP: 7pm
MIKE MATHENY’S NEW PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT: St. Louis Gametime
As you’ll have seen/will see in our Q&A with grade-school dropouts and Missouri state congressmen St. Louis Gametime, games against the Hawks tend to be watershed moments for Blues coaches. Not only is it how the fanbase defines their tenure, but they tend to signal the beginning/end of their time behind the Blues bench.
That appears to be the case against tonight, and Mike Yeo is basically having the black hood put over his head and the rope placed around his neck. All that’s left is for the players, yet again, to signal to the hangman to drop the floor. “This Time It Will Be Different” is coming off getting it shoved up them sideways by the Jackets at home on Thursday, where they gave up a touchdown and the PAT. They’ve got two wins on the season, and are rooted to the bottom of the Central. Their underlying numbers blow too, though I wouldn’t be convinced the Blues’ front office pays attention to that kind of thing, mostly because I’m not convinced the Blues’ front office can read. Gives them a nice symbiosis with the fanbase, you have to admit.
There are so many factors here contributing to the Blues state. One, it’s a wonky roster. They have some of the same problems the Hawks have. Their defense just isn’t that quick and isn’t that good, and that’s in a conference that moves toward hyper-speed more and more. Yeo’s directive was to play a more open, expressive, and faster style than Hitchcock, but that’s hard do when the defense isn’t really built for it. What the Blues don’t have is a world-class goaltender to bail them out nor as much top line scoring as they need to counteract their defense. Especially with Vladimir Tarasenko off to something of a slow start (and his -7 is a touch unsightly after nine games).
Whatever their give-a-shit levels or their desire to get yet another coach turfed, the biggest problems remain in net. Overall, the Blues are getting a .895 SV% at evens. You’re not going anywhere with that. They could have cracking analytic numbers and still be bottoming out because their goalies can’t get in front of a manatee in the sand. This seems to be a problem they want to have, because they keep foisting Jay Gallon the team like your grandmother and her coworker’s child because you’re not getting any younger! (Just me?) There are only three teams that have given up more goals than the Blues.
So tonight seems to be a nexus for the Blues. Either they’ll show some actual professional pride against a team that they still consider their biggest rival, realize it’s still quite early, and they could turn things around with a feel-good win. Or they’ve completely checked out, as seems to be their way, stand aside and watch it crumble so they can get another solution and the Hawks will gleefully drive the final nail in Mike Yeo’s coffin and the Blues will once again be trying to change course. It was ever thus.
Things are much smoother on the SS Westside Hockey Club. They’ve won three of four, are coming off two confidence-building wins against hanging curveballs Anaheim and the Rangers. There have been signs of life from Brandon Saad, there might be an actual third line with Alex Fortin, SuckBag Johnson, and Nick Schmaltz, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Erik Gustafsson and Brent Seabrook have been pretty good when not under serious duress. Corey Crawford looks like Corey Crawford, which of course is the biggest thing.
So it could be quite the atmosphere in Whatever-The-Fuck-It-Is-Now Center. The natives got awfully restless in that loss to the Jackets on Thursday. They’re already aching for change. And it’s a Saturday night against the Hawks, which we know they get just about as gassed up for as the ol’ Family Pit Fight out back to decide who will get Brutus The Mule this year. An early Hawks lead could turn it pretty poisonous. Or the Blues will come out flying in response to being embarrassed (if they’re capable of such a thing anymore) on Thursday and it’ll be the normal bullshit the Hawks find down there. What it won’t be is boring, you can be sure of that.
Again, this is a pretty soft part of the schedule. The unimpressive Oilers await tomorrow, and then a jaunt to Western Canada and its various wayward children on the road. It’s really not until around Thanksgiving that the Hawks face what you’d call a “gauntlet,” and with the way the rest of this division looks you need to grab every point while you can when you can. Ruthlessness is vital, and putting Mike Yeo out of his misery is part of that.
Game #11 Preview Suite