PUCK DROP: 7pm
GOOD GOD DON’T GO THERE: St. Louis Gametime
Power Play (’15-’16): Hawks – 22.6% (2nd) Blues – 21.5% (6th)
Penalty Kill (’15-’16): Hawks 80.3% (22nd) Blues – 85.1% (3rd)
Trends: Tarasenko has 13 points in 15 regular season games against the Hawks, Allen has a .934 career SV% against the Hawks
It’s finally here, after the World Cup made an already interminable-feeling training camp feel even longer. And as the preseason has gone on I’ve felt better about the Hawks and worse about the Blues, which is actually better, because no one wants to feel good about the Blues. That probably goes for the music as well.
When looking over the Blues, it looks more and more like they’re going to be short on scoring, at least to start the season. Brouwer and Backes have walked out the door and nothing has really come in to replace their scoring. They’re counting on development from their youngsters to make up the gap, but that seems a leap of faith. Especially as Ken Hitchcock isn’t known to trust the kids fully.
Because looking at this, how many 60-point players are on this team? Tarasenko for sure and then…? Steen? Maybe Stastny? Schwartz doesn’t stay healthy enough to get there. And there’s no one else. They’re going to need a Yakupov reclamation the type which is rarely seen, a Fabbri (or Fabbry) breakout, and Jori Lehtera to be something other than Jori Lehtera.
Another issue for the Blues is that they quite simply can’t bang and crash the way we’re used to seeing them. Don’t worry, with Parayko, Edmundson, Perron, Reaves, and a couple others there’s still a bunch of dumb to go around here. So though the plan normally would be to put the puck behind Kempny and Forsling and then see if they can handle a physical pounding, this team isn’t really cut out to do that. Is Hitch going to let them try and beat more players one-on-one in the neutral zone and at the lines? It would be a first, but that’s how the Blues are built.
Lastly, they’re finally giving the keys to Jay Gallon in net, even though every time they’ve tried before he’s let them slip through his legs. He’s got the pedigree, he’s served his apprenticeship, but it’s hard to see where he’s going to provide any more than they got from Brian Elliot. And he might have to do more than Elliot did if the Blues play as up-tempo as they’re apparently cut out to do. Or if Jabe O’Meester actually turns to stone, which could happen as soon as tonight.
As for the Hawks, they’re rolling out pretty much all the kids tonight. TVR escapes his fate for one game due to Hjalmarsson’s suspension, but Kempny and Forsling are getting tossed right into the mess. They’re awfully excited about Forsling and he’s shown enough to be here so far, but this is new.
All the kids are right at forward, too. I’m awfully interested to see what Schmaltz and Hinostroza can do as a fourth line with a ton of speed and more skill than you’d usually find there. It’s just a shame they’ll be dragging around a boat anchor who is going to pass out from trying to keep up with them. I don’t know what a line of Motte and Hartman flanking Kruger does, but what the fuck? It’s only the first game. We can’t say how good any of this will be but as far as pure speed this could be one of the fastest groups the Hawks have rolled out.
While nothing is decided in October (unless you’re the Blue Jackets), the Hawks open the season with three division games against teams that figure to be the closest competitors. It would be an awfully nice jump start to the season.