FACEOFF: 11:30 in the AM
TV/RADIO: NBC, WGN Radio 720
DESPERADOS, MUGS, THUGS, PUGS, NITWITS, HALFWITS…: St. Louis Gametime
The last step of the trip is almost certainly the hardest, so why not make it at an awkward morning start just for kicks? The Hawks will step into the hornets’ nest this morning. If hornets smelled way worse than they do and were on a fuckton of meth. Such is a Sunday morning coming down in Missouri.
Whereas the Hawks probably caught the Jets at the perfect time, you couldn’t possibly say that about the Blues right now. They are absolutely rolling, going 9-1-1 in their last 11 to put their hot, stinky, ash-filled breath right on the back of the Preds’ necks and out in front of the Hawks. And to make it even better, they had a complete no-show in Columbus on Friday so they’ll probably be coming into this one pissed off. If it’s even possible for them to come out angrier than they normally are, which is unclear.
Worse yet, they’re kind of binging all over. Alex Steen has 21 points in his last 16 games. Tarasenko is only six points behind Kane in the NHL scoring race. Schwartz has nine points in his last 10. Stastny has six points in his last seven. Jay Gallon has given up just four goals in last four starts. It’s pretty fucking annoying.
The season-long stats won’t make you feel much better. They’re third in the league in goals per game. They’re 9th in goals-against. They take the fifth most amount of shots per game. They give up the sixth-least. They have the second best power play behind Detroit. Do you want me to keep going? Didn’t think so. If there’s one bugaboo with this team, their PK kinda sucks at 19th in the league at just 80%. And seeing as how they’re kinda dumb and take over 10 minutes in penalties per game, that’s something of an issue. As we know, penalty killing is a much better harbinger of playoff success than power play.
They won’t be fully staffed. Kevin Shattenkirk is “week-to-week,” which generally means it’s going to be a while. Without him, the Blues are robbed of basically half their drive from the blue line, leaving almost all of it to Alex OrangeJello. It’s still a pretty solid unit back there, but without Shattenkirk it’s not all that quick. Even Alex TylerDellow isn’t all that quick, which the Hawks eventually exposed last spring.
Still, this team is pretty scary, even if you count on the invisible ghouls and goblins that always seem to bite them in the spring to do so again. In the past their lack of premier scoring was always their downfall. When their agricultural ways didn’t produce much in the postseason facing solid defensive teams (Kings, Hawks) they didn’t have any inspiration. Well, Tarasenko’s and Schwartz’s maturation might have just given them that, and it also properly slots Backes to a second line, either on a wing or center, as well as Alex Steen which is what they’ve always been. T.J. Oshie is on the third line. They no longer need Patrik Berglund to do much, which is good because he’s not going to. They even got smarter by dumping human-shaped fertilizer Maxim Lapierre for the solid and dependable Marcel Goc (GOCCCCCC!). They’re just a deeper team than the one that drowned against the Hawks last year after putting up a brave fight.
But it’s still the Blues, and we know that they’ll want to cement this incredible streak as valid by capping it off with a win over the Hawks. While the Hawks probably don’t believe in such a thing as a statement game, you bet your sweet bippee the Blues do. And on national TV against the Hawks would certainly count as one.
And you know what that means. 18 skaters flying around like they’ve just been shown photos of kidnapped and violated family members and trying to bury a Hawk every three seconds. As we saw with the Ducks, if teams overdo that against the Hawks they’ll tear you apart in the space you leave behind. If you follow the Sharks’ path and finish your checks in a structured way, you can eliminate a lot of the threat from the Hawks because they can’t skate their way out of their zone if Keith isn’t on the ice. Care to guess which way the Blues are likely to go tomorrow?
The Hawks can still salvage this trip. 3-3 would not be the end of the world considering some of the destinations. It would leave them four points back of the Blues, six behind the Preds, with eight straight games at home next where they won’t see a Western conference power and only the Wings and Pens who are even near the top of a division in the East. If the Hawks are going to make one last stab at this, it has to have started Friday and continue today through the homestand.
The Hawks were dead set on getting out of their zone in Winnipeg, having two forwards back and passing their way out quickly. They were actually pretty solid with it, evading what can be a furious Jets forecheck. They didn’t really press it from there, taking a skated entry if it was there but happy to dump it in and play it safe. The same applies this morning, except the margins are tighter and the penalties greater. And we invite you to hide behind your couch whenever Jabba The Hitch sends out Tarasenko against Rozie and Oduya. If not the cellar.
Let’s go Hawks.