RECORDS: Blues 43-28-8 Hawks 34-33-12
PUCK DROP: 7pm
GROSS: St. Louis Gametime
It’s finally over, people. The Hawks desperate, somewhat sad though fun, and always futile lunge/leap/hail mary for the playoffs is now over. Death came a callin’ last night when the Avs won, and now it’s time for this season to journey to the other side. Peachy keen.
There will be plenty of time for the autopsy, for the criticism, for the investigation. For now, I guess we just stare and be somewhat surprised that it’s only the last three games that will be totally meaningless. Because there was a time when it sure looked like the last three months would be. Then again, that’s a criticism of just how bad the West was this year, because in a normal year the Hawks would have never sniffed a playoff spot, much less held one for about 45 minutes. For now, let’s just say that it was all in front of the Hawks, they had it in their own grasp, and they weren’t able to close their fingers around the easiest playoff spot to grab in a decade or more. Someone should pay. No one will.
Which makes for a distinct contrast to the team they face tonight. The Blues sat with the Hawks as the wooden-spooners of the entire league right after January 1st. They were last in the entire NHL. Since then they’ve ripped of a 27-9-4 to this point, which has them within one win of being tied with both the Jets and Preds. Think about that my beautiful babies. In three months, the Blues went from last in the league to being in with a shout of winning this damn division. That’s how mediocre the division has been, but that’s also how much they’ve turned things around.
A huge part of it is Jordan Binnington, whom the Blues handed the job in January in a true “what-fucking-ever” gesture after Jake Allen for the 18th straight year watched the role dribble under his arm and into the net. Binnington has gone .928 since, including a .936 in January and a .945 in February. He’s mostly responsible for this revival. Who knows if it’s real, but if Binnington doesn’t wake up anytime soon, and considering the state of the West, there’s really no telling how far this could go. There’s something to make your avocado toast come back up, huh?
But it isn’t all just Binnington. Interim coach (for now) Craig Berube has gotten the Blues back to their Hitchcock-levels of shot and chance-suppression, while not sacrificing offense totally to do so. Ryan O’Reilly, whom the Blues got for a fucking song the Hawks probably could have easily matched if they weren’t so busy thinking Anisimov and Schmaltz were fine down the middle, has freaked off for 38 points in 41 games in 2019, And he’s brought the give-a-shit of Vladimir Tarasenko from the red to the black, which is no small task as Tank seemed dead set on playing and bitching his way out of town.
At the back, Berube finally figured out, which Hitch and Mike Yeo couldn’t, that Colton Parayko nor Alex OrangeJello are puck-movers, and moved Vinnie Dunn Bag O’ Donuts up to the top pairing to be that guy. He responded with nine points in March alone, and keeps Colton Burpo and Jabe O’Meester away from spots where they can do harm to themselves or society. When Dunn is out there the Blues can actually get up and go, which is a real change.
It’s not totally fair to compare the Blues to the Hawks. The Blues were built to compete this year in the summer, where the Hawks were built to take up space. But the Blues did identify a weakness, center, and didn’t just half-ass in trying to patch it up. They brought in O’Reilly and Bozak, who’s been fine. They saw a coach who wasn’t working and the team wasn’t listening to and finally canned him, but the new coach actually was able to implement some changes for the better. None of that has happened here, and it truly is a cold and scornful world where it feels like the Blues have more of an idea of what they’re doing than the Hawks do. But it’s hard to see it otherwise right now.
As for the Hawks, it’s time to just see it out. Corey Crawford will get a rest tonight, and it honestly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sit the rest of the year. There’s really nothing to be gained from him playing, and now that the Hawks have finally got him healthy and at least in the area of being Crow again, what’s the point of chancing it? Dennis Gilbert has been called up to get a look-see, mostly to reward him for a good season in Rockford. And hey, he’ll keep you from having to watch Gustav Forsling tonight.
The only things that matter now happen at the draft and July 1st. Until then, we’re just killing time.
Game #80 Preview Suite