RECORDS: Hawks 23-11-5 Blues 19-13-5
PUCK DROP: Noon, or so they say
TV: W-ENN-BEE-SEE! W-ENN-BEE-SEE! Waste not want not, Robyn.
EVEN BUSCH STADIUM WON’T LET THEM IN: St. Louis Gametime
ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Hawks – 49.7 (16th) Blues – 51.5 (11th)
ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Hawks – 46.9 (26th) Blues – 50.5 (15th)
POWER PLAY %: Hawks – 19.0 (15th) Blues – 21.6 (8th)
PENALTY KILL %: Hawks – 75.0 (28th) Blues – 86.0 (4th)
For the most part, I’m positive on outdoor games. While most of us Inside Baseball have soured on them, citing the disappearance of the novelty, the lack of interesting, first-time venues, the continued use of the same teams, and whatever else, the NHL season is long and monotonous. Whatever can break it up, whatever can spike the meter here and there, is welcome. While it isn’t by the books that some teams will play a game with different conditions than all the rest, one out of 82 shouldn’t really queer things to a noticeable point.
And yet this one is shaping up to be a giant mess. Then again, that’s kind of perfect for St. Louis, isn’t it?
They’re going to stick with the original noon start time. For the first time I can ever remember, there is an announced contingency plan in case they can’t finish, because they’re not sure if the rain and warm temperatures will wreak havoc on the surface or not. To me this is lunacy, because if there’s any chance you’re not going to finish the thing, why even start it? Yes, the NHL doesn’t want to lose this window of attention, as fewer people will care tomorrow night after returning to work. Yes, it would be something of an embarrassment if the NHL had to scrap the thing altogether and play it at DrinkScotch Center at a later date. It’s actually rather amazing that hasn’t happened yet for any of these.
And what you should really be asking is if the rains are threatening later, shouldn’t the NHL cut out the pregame ceremonies to try and get in under the wire? Will they fuck.
So with the conditions, it’s kind of hard to predict what kind of game we’ll get. We know the Blues will come out firing, and probably won’t be concerned with choppy ice and not being able to pass the puck because that’s not something they’re usually all that concerned with when playing the Hawks at home, at least not to start. With the Hawks possibly handicapped in playing their way around the Blues thanks to the conditions, they may get drawn right into the much whether they like it or not. Perhaps just playing to their speed, chipping pucks out to center to be chased down, just slotting them past d-men at the blue line to be corralled on the other side, etc.
Whatever the conditions are, the Blues kind of need this. Not only is this probably their most featured regular season game ever, they’re already eight points behind the Hawks. Go 10, even with a half-season left, and that’s a gap you could describe as “yawning.” Especially when your goalie doesn’t appear to be able to get hot enough to rip off eight or ten in a row that would be required to haul in the Hawks, while the Hawks might have two goalies capable of that.
So with all that, expect the Blues to be more charged than you’ve seen them, at least before the playoffs. There will probably be a high level of bullshit too, which I’m sure NBC will eat up. Which makes the prospect of a nonchalant Hawks win all the more appetizing. You feel like if the Hawks get this–taking a 10-point lead, ruining their big day, once again lording over them–and this team and organization might just break and do something truly panicky (fire Hitch, trade for a goalie, trade Shattenkirk, all of the above and more). I sort of can’t wait for it.
That is if they get it in at all. In some ways you feel the NHL deserves to have to call it and decide it in a shootout at the United Center two months later. That would be fucking hilarious as well.
This is a professional sports league, folks.