RECORDS: Hawks 20-8-4 Blues 17-10-4
THINK DEXTER FOWLER HAS TOO MUCH FUN: St. Louis Gametime
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Hawks – 50.1 (15th) Blues – 52.4 (10th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Hawks – 47.5 (21st) Blues 51.9 (13th)
POWER PLAY: Hawks – 19.0 (15th) Blues – 21.9 (7th)
PENALTY KILL: Hawks – 73.3 (30th) Blues – 88.2 (2nd)
TRENDS: Tarasenko has 14 points in his last eight games… Allen has made over 30 saves just twice in 25 appearances
After getting a couple looks at one of the East’s best over the past week in the Rangers, the Hawks will spend the weekend amongst the West’s aristocracy, or at least what’s supposed to be the aristocracy. The Blues tonight and the Sharks tomorrow are both teams, along with the Hawks, that are supposed to be around longer than it takes at the DMV come the spring.
It starts tonight in West East St. Louis, where the Hawks will find a Blues team that trails them by six points. Though their 38 points is tied for third best in the conference, things just haven’t quite fired the way they might have hoped (but had to expect).
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Blues are about as good of a shutdown defensive team as you’ll find but don’t quite score at the rate of their competitors. These days they are especially accentuated with Taransenko at the tip of the blade and every other line pretty dull. Aside from Tank, they’ve only got Kirk ShattenKevin at 20 points or above. Only Tarasenko and Schwartz have more than 10 goals. As we’ve been writing for five years now, there just isn’t a lot of spice to the Blues attack. At least Hitch has finally let Yakupov breathe a bit, and he’ll be on the second line with Stastny and Schwartz.
And while the defending remains obstinate, Jay Gallon hasn’t done his part. That has kept them from racking up the points their defending probably should have earned. As covered in the spotlight, he’s been barely middling overall and at even-strength, not providing the Blues with the big saves they require to puncture through to the level they’ve never been.
For the Hawks, a couple changes. TOOTBLAN will come in for Motte The Hoople, and as expected after Thursday’s “struggles,” Michal Kempny will be replaced by Gustav Forsling, though the Blues forecheck is awfully deep water for any first year d-man. Scott Darling remains in net because there’s no choice.
Six points in December is a bigger gap than it sounds. While it can be made up with 50 games to go, the Hawks would have to have a massive drop in their goaltending to really open up an alley. So it’s not that the Blues need this one per se, but it would do them more good than the Hawks, that’s for sure. While the normal, cayenne-pepper-on-scrotum effort in St. Louis from the Blues probably awaits on January 2nd, that doesn’t mean they’ll take this one lightly.
From here, you could write this yourselves. These games go one of two ways. Either way, the Blues come out on fire for one of the two or three home games they care about most. They’ll hit everything in sight before and after the whistle. They’ll throw everything at the net and then send all forwards diving there as if there was a keg at the end of a slip-n-slide. They’ll try and rugby scrum a goal or two.
The Hawks will either decide that this early in the season and given their standing it just isn’t worth all the trouble and will lose pretty easily. Or they’ll decide it is worth it to show what true class and success looks like, weather the storm, let the Blues punch themselves out, and pot a couple well-timed goals and then head to the exit chuckling to themselves about how nothing ever changes down there.
Let’s to it.