RECORDS: Hawks 27-27-8 Blues 36-17-10
PUCK DROP: 7pm
VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED: St. Louis Gametime
So, what could be the worst thing you would have to sit through after an underwhelming though probably explainable trade deadline where you hoped the Hawks would begin to outline their future but didn’t really? And you’re feeling the deepest malaise about team and organization that maybe you ever have? And it feels like it genuinely might not ever get better due to the front office’s incompetence and blindness? Why a game in St. Louis of course! Where the once red-headed stepchild has thrown off its labels and shackles and is the defending champ and sitting on top of the West and didn’t even feel the need to do much at the deadline because hey, they’re got pretty much everything they need! Oh, and they’re on a hot streak!
Blues fans will tell you it’s been a rocky season for them, and they’re a bit worried about what’s to come, which makes you realize what we sounded like when we were complaining about the #2 or #4 center on a 100+ point team and the Blues couldn’t find reverse on a Soviet tank (not Tarasenko). And the Blues have missed their best player basically all season, but he’s practicing again so that’s just fucking great. The Note did lose five in a row earlier in the month, which let the Avalanche and the Stars into the discussion over the division and conference. But they’ve since won four in a row by the combined score of 13-2 and have a small cushion at the top of things again.
For the Blues it starts in net, but it’s not just Jordan Binnington anymore. He did recover from a two-month-long sneeze and has been fine in February. But with the pressure off as a backup Jake Allen has been great in his starts, so the Blues get a minimum of plus-goaltending pretty much every night.
It would be inaccurate and unfair to say that’s all they are. They’re in the top ten in possession stats or close to it, so they do most things well. They don’t score a ton but they score enough, and they get that scoring from pretty much all four lines. And all four lines are packed with speed to maintain that hellacious forecheck they have. This is the misnomer about the Blues, and one the Hawks among others bought into. Because it’s THE BLUES, people assumed they forechecked hard because they’re just so tough and hairy and drooling and whatever else. But that’s not it. They’re really fast, so they can get on you quicker than just about any team. Yes, they’re not afraid to hit you when they’re there, but you can’t do that unless you can get there. The Blues can and well in time.
The Blues don’t generate a ton, there’s not much inspiration in this lineup, but they give up almost nothing because they make it so hard to get through them to even get to their zone, much less create chances. You’re basically coughing up the puck before their zone most of the time, which is what the Hawks have struggled with twice this season in their two losses to this outfit.
Are the Blues primed for another run? You might have to prepare for that. Colorado has enough speed to weave in and out of their tie fighters, but enough on the back end? The Stars don’t score enough, even if they almost pulled it off last year. The thought that only Vegas might be able to navigate this is enough to make you puke for a day.
As for the Hawks, they’ll begin the post-Lehner and Gustafsson-era with hardly a tear in their eye. The impression you get is that the dressing room and front office was sick of Lehner’s shit, and his pouty-face the past couple weeks didn’t help. This becomes a Crawford contract-drive, though the Hawks should be lining up getting him signed tomorrow. Assuming he wants to, which isn’t a given.
What to watch? Well, this will be the hardest path Lucas Carlsson has ever had to navigate, so how he does is worth assessing. It also might be nice to see Adam Boqvist move his feet once through it. Other than that, I can’t help you.
(Oh it looks like they won’t even let Carlsson try, because Nick Seeler’s brain and feet are certainly equipped to deal with this. How many times can one defenestrate himself?)
This is our lot in life now. Providing the fodder for Blues fans to marvel at just how far they’ve come and how much has changed. And to laugh and chortle. It should be a lesson in how quickly things can change, and they could always change back. But for now we just have to eat it. Because it doesn’t matter if the Hawks win tonight. It won’t change their playoff chase, and the Blues have eyes on bigger things. Just like we used to. Perhaps that’s what hurts most. Other than the history and proximity, is this even a rival right now for the Blues? They’ll play like it, and their fans will act like it, but pretty soon they won’t even think about the Hawks.
I guess you hold onto this, because if things turn around anytime soon it’s this kind of thing that makes it sweeter. Even if you can’t picture it now.