Game Time: 7:00PM Central
Moo: St. Louis Game Time
Last night’s game was the kind that makes me want to pull my hair out. The game was intense in all the wrong ways. The Flyers aren’t a better team than the Hawks but they were able to pull Chicago down to their level. The Hawks allowed them to dictate the pace and feel for the game. The Hawks do their best when they’re shoving their game down the other teams’ throat, not when they’re running around like lunatics on bath salts. Two fights in a game isn’t unheard of, even as fighting loses favor, but the Hawks had only 9 fighting majors for the season total. Two in a game shows how much they were out of it last night.
So how do the Hawks now respond when they have to face a team that has notoriously tried to bring the Hawks down a level and away from their game? Count me as someone who is not terribly optimistic.
I don’t need to tell you that the Blues are a major problem this year. The Blackhawks have yet to beat them this year in three matchups with only two more to go including tonight. Yes, the last two games came down to shootouts and yes the Blues have 15 minute American Hero TJ Oshie. That’s still 6 points given up to the Blues who now look like the Central is theirs to win. They’re 8 points ahead of both the Hawks and the Avs and they STILL have a game in hand. When the fuck is St. Louis actually going to play all their damn games? It feels like even at 82 games played, St. Louis will still have another chance to tack on an extra game or two.
Making matters worse, the Blues show no sign of slowing down. Since acquiring Ryan Miller at the deadline, the Blues have employed a scorched earth policy on the rest of the league. They are 8-0-1 and outscoring opponents by 14 goals over that stretch. They are tied with the Bruins for goal differential in the league at +74. Chicago is in third behind those two but it’s a long drop down to the Hawks’ +51. If the Hawks didn’t already know it, the Blues are no longer the cute little brother that annoys the hell out of you but who you still can beat up whenever you want. They’ve caught up in every imaginable way and are threatening to pass the Hawks… but that can’t happen for real until the playoffs begin.
With only a baker’s dozen games left, we really start to see things crank up in intensity. Tonight is likely the first and still one of the biggest. The Hawks could be bolstered by the return of Saad whose returned was hinted at so far by Q. We’ll hear more about that in a few hours. The Blues have been off since Monday night and had an optional skate yesterday. TJ Oshie missed the skate yesterday for personal reasons but is pretty much assured to be in the line up tonight. The Blues are testing their depth once again though as Vladimir Tarasenko will miss six weeks as he’s scheduled to have surgery on his hand today.
As mentioned above, the Blues have always been a team that employees the same strategy against the Hawks though it has slowly changed in recent years. The game will still be physical with hits, scrums after the whistle and potentially a fight. But as the Blues have improved their skill overall, they’re less likely to force a purely physical game as they are more than capable of skating a scoring the same as Chicago. I’ve noticed in the year so far, the Hawks have come out expecting the punishing style a bit too much. They’re too eager to go hit for hit and rough play for rough play. More so than ever, the Hawks need to keep their heads on straight (but still on a swivel.. if that makes sense) and not get distracted by the Blues shenanigans. This is going to be another tough one. Hold onto your butts.
Let’s Go Hawks