Game Time: 6:00PM Central
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, NHL Network, TVAS, WGN-AM 720
Army Corps Of Engineers Got It Right: SLGT
After a three game southern mini-road trip, the Hawks return home for a brief one-night stand at the UC before heading back down to Carolina prior to the All Star break. It will also be the Hawks’ last home game for two straight weeks, with four straight away from the west side spanning either side of the break. Their guests for tonight’s one off will be the anthropomorphic carbunkles from West East St. Louis, the Blues.
This year’s iteration of the Blues finds them in the same position they’ve always been. A solid possession team with questions in net and in search of more East-West among their forward corps. But every successive year that this happens finds their so-called “core” one year older, with Backes, Steen, Jabe O’Meester, Paul Stastny all now 30 or older. They’ve countered that to a fair degree with an infusion of youth in Ty Rattie and Rob “Milli Vanilli” Fabbri to compliment Vlad Tarasenko and the oft injured Jaden Schwartz, but it’s still a team that lacks the center depth to stack up with the Kings, Ducks, or even the Sharks at this point, because Ken Hitchcock still can’t decide if Backes or Steen are true centers. Perhaps most laughably is that among all those bodies, the Blues do consider Jori Lehtera a true center, and was given a 3 year extension at $4.7 million dollars per. He has 6 goals and 15 assists so far this year, and has now played 120 NHL games at age 28. That’s nearly as bad as the Kesler deal, and at least there was a track record in place there. Of course Lehtera will have 2 and 2 tonight because of mentioning this.
On the blue line, Alex Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester still form a defacto top pairing, and they’re deployed much like Josi and Weber are in Nashville, where they take on the top competition of the opposition and are expected merely to hold the fort. They literally do just that,with Petro barely holding serve at 50.05% in possession and Jabe just below at 48.9%. The real revelation has come from Colton Burpo Parayko, who has 19 points from the blue line and leads Blues defense with a 54.38% share while not getting an inordinate amount of offensive zone starts. His emergence along with his size (6’5″ 220lbs) is part of the reason the Blues are potentially shopping Kevin Shattenkirk to get more creativity at forward, as Shatt is in an RFA year and his contract demands might stretch the Blues’ internal budget. Thanks again Jori Lehtera.
In net Brian Elliott has been his Brian Elliott self since Jay Gallon went down with an injury earlier this month. The regular season has never been a problem for Elliott during his time in St. Louis, and that continues to be the case this year with a sparkling .927 save percentage overall, and .936 at evens and .930 on the road. But again, October through April has never really been Elliott’s issue.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, after an exemplary 3 week stretch in which they did not trail at any point in the calendar year, they have now not scored a goal in 119 minutes of game play during a forgettable Florida swing. Whether it was complacence or merely being checked out on Thursday and Friday getting away to warmer climes against non-division opponents, this is still at team that desperately needs home ice as presently constituted. And while the Stars continue to do the Hawks favors as they scuffle themselves, in an ideal world this would be where the Hawks actually put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. In an ideal world, obviously.
Corey Crawford will get the start tonight and likely on Tuesday as well before getting a full week off after the indignity of not being selected for what’s already shaking out to be the stupidest All Star game in recent memory. The rest will be far more valuable come April.
Last time the Blues were in town was one of the only times this year that Crawford was less than exemplary, and he’ll likely be looking to correct that personally. The Blues have taken points in 9 of their last 10 to keep themselves from slipping out of divisional relevance, but they trail in the Hawks in the ROW column by six as a result of all of the recent OTLs. And given Ken “Nihilist Arby’s” Hitchcock’s proclivities, look for him to put as many bodies, sticks, and IEDs in the neutral zone as possible and try to win this game 2-1. While the Hawks might be overly reliant on their power play, this is certainly a game where having it come through would be the difference in winning and losing, as the Blues are never shy about giving opportunities, especially on UC ice.
If you’re heading to tonight’s game, pick up a copy of our gameday program which we will be selling outside again now that we don’t require tauntauns, which are dead. If you’re not going tonight, you can get the digital version right here.