Hockey

vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 12-14-6   Blues 19-8-6

PUCK DROP: 7pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

A HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLAINY: St. Louis Gametime

We never thought this day would come. But nothing lasts forever, especially anything good and beautiful. So for the first time, the Hawks will walk into any arena in St. Louis that houses the Blues and see a championship banner hanging above the ice. And you can be sure that any traveling Hawk fan will be made acutely aware of it repeatedly. Godspeed, you weirdos.

Things haven’t gone all that smoothly for the Notes since they swatted away the Hawks at the UC with laughable ease in the first game of the month. They’ve lost three of four, getting brained by the Penguins, Leafs, and even Sabres. They recovered somewhat by beating the Knights on Thursday, though that was more of a case of better finishing as they were on the back foot for most of the night.

Injuries have been something of a problem. Vladimir Tarasenko has been a long-term casualty, and some depth forwards like Zach Sanford, Sammy Blais (TO BLAIISSSS, WHICH WE ALL KNOW MEANS TO BLUFF), and Alex Steen have been out, though Steen will return tonight. While the Blues have useful players up and down the lineup when healthy, they don’t have a ton of depth scoring, so when Perron, O’Reilly, Schenn go cold as they have of late, the goals dry up. Thus their four goals in those three losses mentioned above.

And Jordan Binnington has dipped of late. While the Blues hold down attempts among the best in the league, the chances among those attempts flow a little more freely than they’d be comfortable with. He was better against the Knights but pilfered by the Penguins and Leafs, and the Blues need superior goaltending to get by at the moment. Sadly, Jay Gallon has picked up the slack in that vacuum, as life as a backup seems to suit him pretty well.

As for the Hawks tonight, the only change will see them swap goalies again, so Matthew Highmore will stay in over Dylan Sikura to do whatever it is he does and not do whatever it is the Hawks think he does. With the injuries around the defense sort of picks itself, and complaining about Dennis Gilbert over Slater Koekkoek is akin to two children fighting over a damp and putrid sponge. What the fuck does it matter?

When these two teams last met, the Blues found it very easy to keep their hands on the Hawks’ forehead and let them swing their arms lightly. If there’s one thing the Blues can do is follow a plan when necessary, and they chose the path of just standing up at their blue line, forcing the Hawks to dump the puck in, and wait for the chances they knew the Hawks would present. It worked to a T, and will again if they stick to it tonight. At home they might be tempted to unleash the forecheck more, which can also work against the Hawks, but it does leave the Hawks the one window of finding some space in the neutral zone if they can get through the initial wave (Narrator: They can’t).

Not that games in St. Louis were ever pleasant when the Hawks were good and the Blues were not. These were something of a Super Bowl to the Blues, and the bullshit ran high on the ice and in the stands. You were happy when they were over, no matter the result. That remains the same, but this is now the entire Blues Nation to rub the Hawks’ nose in the new arrangement of things. And they can also consign the Hawks even deeper into the muck, and one wonders if the Hawks look embarrassing against in both games this weekend just how much longer Jeremy Colliton‘s stay of execution will last.

Let’s get through it together.

Everything Else

Yes, that’s probably an insult to Denmark to compare it to St. Louis. We hope the Danes forgive us. We love Christian Eriksen. Does that help?

Alex Pietrangelo is something of a yearly post for us. While the Blues have touted and used him as a #1 d-man for a good few years now, we aren’t the only ones who have gone to lengths to show that he’s just not. Is he a good d-man? Yes, unquestionably. If he were a #2 or #3 on a team, that team would almost certainly be really good. At least on the blue line it would be.

But as we’ve pointed out, probably far too much for anyone who still pretends to be of use to society. Pietrangelo just doesn’t push the play that much against the toughest competition. We started when he somehow conned his way onto Team Canada in ’14 (with Bouwmeester! And he played ahead of Subban! Assuredly not because Subban is black!) He’s not prime Keith. He’s not Doughty. He’s not Karlsson. He’s not even Kris Letang. Pietrangelo’s metrics are fine. They’re usually right in line with the team’s, though the Blues’ numbers were always skewed by Ken Hitchock’s ultra-defensive system that didn’t give up much but sure didn’t create much either.

The only time in the past six season that Pietrangelo has exceeded his team’s possession rate by anything significant is this year, where he’s +2.3. That’s going really well for the Blues too, who are still staring up at the Hawks.

Pietrangelo is a good skater, but not great, and can get beat by the faster forwards in the league. And he can get caught with the puck, too. That seems to be a problem this year, where the Blues can’t get out of their zone if there was a carbon monoxide leak. Or maybe there is and that’s the problem. Hard to tell, given the way the whole city smells. Yes, we know carbon monoxide doesn’t smell, just fucking go with us you heathen!

But let’s shelve that discussion for another time. Hockey loves its intangibles. No sport loves to mention what goes on “in the room” more. There is some mystical quality to where the players get dressed, and that has kept some truly woeful hockey players in a job for longer than you’d believe because it was thought they added to this. “The Room” in hockey is somehow weirder than the one with Tommy Wiseau, and maybe it’ll be the subject of its own “Disaster Artist” one day (probably starring David Backes), As if you couldn’t just pack a dressing room full of really good players who win all the time and they wouldn’t just figure it out when they’re not on the ice to get along. We present the 2015 Chicago Blackhawks as evidence.

And it can’t be any clearer that there is something amiss with the Blues both on and off the ice. We can pinpoint the problems on it. The ones off it are a little tougher.

The Blues are about to turf their second coach in less than three seasons. A loss tonight could be the final straw in the case against Mike Yeo. So it’s fair to ask how many coaches the Blues are going to cycle through before they conclude that it’s the group of players who are in someway unreachable.

Pietrangelo is the captain. Along with Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Steen, that’s pretty much the leadership group in St. Louis, as they’ve been around the longest. While Tarasenko’s performances have never dropped, he clearly had a hand in throwing Hitchcock overboard (quite the feat). But if Pietrangelo is wearing the “C”, the questions have to stop with him.

While the Blues were indisputably stupid under the stewardship of David Backes, you couldn’t accuse them of floating and giving up and trying to undermine their coach. Their effort was in all the wrong directions and tactics, but it was there. This will be the second time they’ve downed tools under Pietrangelo. This becomes a theme at some point soon.

Compare that to the local side, where everyone knew that Joel Quenneville was minutes away from the axe from training camp. And yet you never got the impression the Hawks had quit on him. The front office did last year, but the players didn’t, at least for the most part.

Maybe the silly arrangement of having Yeo right there to succeed Hitchcock jaded the players. They could have soured on Yeo before he even took the job, knowing all the time he was going to take the job. Maybe someone completely new juices everything (though the rumors have it that it’ll just be Craig Berube sliding over from assistant, which is how we got here in the first place). Perhaps the Blues want a completely new voice.

Methinks the players are the thing….

 

Game #19 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Believe us, we’re even more sick of them than you are. But with Hawks-Blues games being crammed into the first month, we have to put up with @StLouisGametime together. Just close your eyes and think of a happier place, and soon it will be over. 

 

When’s Mike Yeo getting fired? Is it tomorrow? It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

Here’s a fun story. When Andy Murray took over for Mike Kitchen as head coach of the Blues, his first game behind the bench was against the Hawks. When Murray got replaced by Davis Payne, his first game was against the Hawks. When Payne was cut loose, Ken Hitchcock’s first game was against the Hawks. You remember Joel Quenneville used to be the Blues head coach, right? His last game with the Blues was a Hawks game. And here we are, Mike Yeo, embattled Blues head coach, piloting a quickly sinking ship and it’s a Hawks game. Too bad Craig Berube, the associate coach who has experience stepping in mid-season, wasn’t hired yesterday. So Yeo could follow in Q’s footsteps and make tonight his last game. When they beat Toronto a week ago, Yeo said after the game he didn’t know why his team played better. After Thursday’s blowout loss, he said something to the effect of the Blues focused a lot on the end goal for the Blues and not the process of becoming a team. That’s some mumbo jumbo bullshit that frankly sounds like an indictment of his own coaching. He’s tried to be nice. He’s tried to be mean. Nothing works. Maybe this is telling: when the axe finally falls and a new guy is in charge, Alexander Steen and Alex Pietrangelo will still be Blues. Petro was a young guy just coming in, but Steen was established when he came to St. Louis. The next guy will be their fifth head coaches in St. Louis (Murray, Payne, Hitchcock, Yeo, Berube). If Berube is only the interim and they name another permanent head coach, that would be six. These are two of the leaders of the team. Maybe they shouldn’t be.

When’s Jake Allen getting fired? Is it tomorrow? It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

Jake Allen has to fucking love Mike Yeo. He probably offers him a discreet over the pants HJ on the team plane as a thank you. Because hardly anyone is talking about Jake Allen in St. Louis right now. In eight games this season, his goals-against average is 3.93. He’s pushed his career GAA to 2.53. If he tries hard enough (doesn’t try enough?), he could double his career average this season. Only one more goal a game. And I think he can do it. He’s stopped only 87.6 percent of the shots he’s seen this season. Those numbers would get most goaltenders put on waivers and then not claimed. Of course Allen is in the second year of a four-year deal paying him more than $4 million a year. It’s not Brent Seabrook bad, but even Cam Ward wonders how Allen got that contract. But like I said, no one is even mentioning Allen as an anchor pulling the Blues to the bottom of the ocean. So no, he’s not getting fired tomorrow. Even if he deserves it. He’s problem 1B on a list as long as my arm. And I have long arms.

Why is Vince Dunn terrible this year? Is he getting fired?

Vince Dunn is not terrible. You see, Brad Shaw was an assistant coach here forever. All those coaches I mentioned above, he outlasted almost all of him. He was in charge of the defensemen. Now he’s in Columbus. And Mike Van Ryn is the assistant in charge of the defensemen. I’m sure he has a system. If you named it, the moniker might be Chase The Other Team Around Like A Puppy Chases His Tail And Never Get The Puck Like The Puppy Never Gets His Goddamn Tail. Van Ryn has Jay Bouwmeester go from a healthy scratch for the first time in his career to basically leading the defensemen in minutes the next game to third-pairing to practicing yesterday back on the top pairing. When Yeo gets fired, if he doesn’t pack up Van Ryn with him, there may be a riot. And if there’s anything we know how to do in St. Louis, it’s riot.

Your Schmaltz is as big as ours….

Jordan Schmaltz is a find third-pairing defenseman. He’s not too fast or tough. He’s ok. He’s fine. Don’t get me started on the mistakes the other defensemen are making on a nightly basis. I haven’t screamed his name at the TV or at the game yet. That’s a positive sign. He was a first-round pick, but was one of the slowest in his draft class to sniff the NHL. He’s fine. Honest.

When are you getting fired? Is it tomorrow? It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?

This is my seventh season running the Game Time paper. Before that, I wrote for the previous editor/publisher, Gallagher, for seven seasons — six on the front page. So this is my 14th season writing for GT. Our prospect guy is the only one who has written longer. During that time, the Blues have won four playoff series. All those coaches up above, I’ve written extensively about all of them from Kitchen on. I’m still here and all those guys are gone or will be gone soon. I’m the cockroach of St. Louis underground hockey writers. It’s going to take more than one shitty season to get rid of me. And if this wasn’t a well-disguised cry for help, I don’t know what is.

 

Game #11 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

evil empire at imos blues

Game Time: 8:30PM CDT
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN, SportsNet360, TVA-S, WGN-AM 720
If A Urinal Cake Were A Town: St. Louis GameTime

As far as inevitabilities go, the Hawks and Blues meeting in the first round of the playoffs this year is right up there with death, taxes, and David Haugh writing something profoundly ignorant, stupid, and damaging. And with this series, all of the old war horses once again will be trotted out, from the Hawks “turning it on” and hockey followers everywhere from local to national believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that this time it will be different for the Blues.

Everything Else

bluestrumpet_jersey vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:30PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Toasted Ravs, Man: SLGT

Tonight’s game between the Hawks and Blues is being labeled a playoff preview by all of the flapping heads around the league, and in one sense, that’s not accurate at all given the number of injuries on both sides that will surely answer the bell this time next week, as well as the fact that this first round matchup is anything but a foregone conclusion. And in that respect tonight already is a playoff game unto itself. Should the Blues gain a single point, they will clinch some form of home ice and the Hawks will be locked into third in the Central. However a Hawks regulation win still keeps them in position for home ice if not the division, depending on the outcome of Stars/Avs. The Hawks would still need some help from the Preds and/or Capitals on Saturday, but they still have to close out their regular season home schedule properly tonight to give themselves a chance.

Everything Else

bluestrumpet_jersey vs AltLogo

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, CNBC, CBC (Angl0), RDSI (Franco), WGN-AM 720
Moral High Ground From Below Sea Level: SLGT

With the series now turning north and back to the west side tonight, the Hawks find themselves in an unfortunately familiar spot, down two games to an opponent, something that has happened each of the last three playoff years. And this go-around might be the most rancorous yet.