PUCK DROP: Somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:42pm
TV: NBCSN round the nation, CSN here
THE SWORD OF DEMOCLES: St. Louis Gametime
All right, let’s get the positive right here at the top. No team has put the Hawks to the sword at first time of asking since the ’09 Wings. It took the ’11 Canucks four tries, the ’12 Coyotes two, and the ’14 Kings three. Quite simply, when the Hawks haven’t won the whole fucking thing they’ve been just about the toughest out around. And that’s with rosters as or more limited than this one. This is also a Blues team that has one series win to its name in this era. So for proceedings to end tonight, both teams are going to have to do something that has gone against their recent nature.
The Hawks are not the Bulls. Whatever their roster irregularities may be, whatever the bullshit of the past couple days have been, there is no reason to think the Hawks are going to come out and chuck it tonight. They never have before. The Kings and Canucks needed OT in a Game 7 to get them out after having multiple chances. The Coyotes, and more to the point Mike Smith, stared down an 18-shot first period from the Hawks in that Game 6 before the dam broke. One would expect the Hawks to come out with a similar effort tonight.
Because they know that a win tonight brings the series back here, and the Blues would have to show that they are now the kind of team that can close things out on the road. That takes some stones. Otherwise, they’re going to have to do it in a Game 7 and again, who’s resolve would you trust more in that? You feel like the Blues have to get it done tonight.
Their coach is certainly throwing everything into it, continuing to put the blender on puree as it was for most of Game 4. Hossa is now the checking winger he’s basically been all season, with Ladd and Kruger. Teuvo has been shifted to wing to take Kane’s spot across from Pantera. Daydream Nation has been reunited. This could all look different 10 minutes in, but they’re going to try everything.
On the back end, David Rundblad is going to draw in ahead of Michal Rozsival. Yes, Rozie has been terrible since Game 2 started, but how a player who hasn’t played an NHL game in over four months is going to be an improvement, I can’t tell you. And Rundblad is far more likely to get knocked on his ass behind and around the net and that’s a problem. Tomas Fleischmann, who’s been a nowhere man living in his nowhere land this series, is dropped for five minutes of Brandon Mashinter trying to not shit himself.
The Blues will have less changes, as Carl Gunnarsson comes back for the rock-headed Joel Edmundson. And that’s it. But they don’t need to make too many changes here, do they?
And really, in the actual play, the Hawks don’t have to change all that much. They’ve gotten their chances. Their big players have gotten their looks. The difference is Tarasenko and Schwartz are scoring, and the Hawks’ main artillery is not. But they’re all getting shots. They are forcing everyone but Pietrangelo into turnovers. They haven’t been able to move Brian Elliott as much as they probably want, but it really is right there for them. The Hawks have a 55% Corsi-share this series at evens. And while the chances might not be as good as they’d like, it doesn’t mean they’re totally absent.
The worrying things are still there. At home the Hawks don’t get to decide who is playing Tarasenko, and after he thrashed the top pairing on Sunday and then the second pairing on Tuesday, maybe it doesn’t even matter. Fabbri seems to jump-started Backes and Berglund, playing the Hawks’ bottom six. And the Hawks don’t have a handle on the Blues PP, and with Fleischmann going out it means more personnel changes on the PK which isn’t going to help. Also with Rozie out there’s only four d-men who can play on the kill, and one of them is TVR which is the hill the Hawks are determined to die on.
You would expect the Blues come out from jump street with the engines seriously revving and a crowd baying for blood and thunder (or that’s just their natural sound, much like the sand people). The boards are almost certainly going to be rattling, and the Hawks are going to have to keep their heads because getting down early could be death. The Blues over-exuberance will get PPs for the Hawks, and they have to convert one or two because as we’ve seen all season, they’re just not likely to win the game solely at even-strength. At least when Keith is out there and they can, they have to try and hit the Blues’ line with speed and attack O’Meester, Gunnarsson, and Parayko who have been shaky in their own end. And someone get a leash on Tarasenko for once.
Not like this… not like this…