Game Time: 11:30AM (fuck that)
Ugh: St. Louis Game Time
What's worse than St. Louis Blues fans? St. Louis Blues fans when their team is actually winning. Last time we saw the Blues, they were only about a month into the Ken Hitchcock era and they were only starting to assert themselves. They'd only played 12 games with their new coach but had put up an impressive 8-1-3 record. In the days and weeks since, the Blues have lost only 14 times while winning 29 times. They've easily passed by the Blackhawks in the standings and now sit 10 points ahead of the Hawks with 1 less game played.
The Blues aren't going to overwhelm you with offensive fire power. They've certainly got guys who can hurt you if you let them get in behind you but they aren't going to put up crazy offense. They're only 20th in the league in goals per game and their leading scorer (headcase captain) David Backes has yet to crack the 20 goal mark. Where the Blues will kill you is with a suffocating team defense and stellar goaltending to back it up. It's not much a surprise that a Hitch led team will focus on defense first but it is a bit shocking how quickly the Blues adopted and excelled at it. They lead the league in both shots/against and goals/against per game. Their players will block shots, collapse in the slot and make life insanely difficult. When all that is working in front of them, it's no shock that their goalies are having extremely nice seasons. Brian Elliot (who we'll see this morning) leads the league in Sv%.
When the Blues do get into the offensive zone we know exactly what to expect. They'll throw the puck in deep and they pull a pinball act and throw themselves with reckless abandon at whoever and whatever is closest to the puck. We know the Blackhawks struggle against this type of agressive forecheck to staying calm and making quick passes will be crucial. They'll also have to be willing to take a couple of hits. Staying composed will be key and it'll be a good test for someone who is still untested like Dylan Olsen. Olsen is a big guy and should be able to play an aggressive game so we'll see how he holds up when using his size is most important.
For as good as the Blues are playing... they're still the Blues. They take a lot of penalties and surprisingly aren't all that great at killing them off. If the Hawks can get under their skin they're still going to take a lot of stupid penalties and go out of position to try and make a big hit rather than a smart play. The last game the Blues took 6 penalties and the Hawks converted on two of the power plays (they also got a shortie). The Hawks have started winning but they still haven't scored on the power play. The last power play goal came on Jan 24th just before the road trip began. The Blues are going to give you opportunities and there are few games where they'll be more important. Win the special teams battles here and you win the game.
It's of course also the first home game for the Hawks since the 24th too. With the road trip ending on a high note, I'm sure the UC will be a loud welcoming place for the men of four feathers. Hopefully the Hawks can keep stay in control of their nerves. There's a real concern they'll come out and try to do too much too early to try and get the crowd even more excited. The Blues also played yesterday and got beat around a bit by a frustrated Wild team. After his solid past outings, Corey Crawford is back in the net. So the rest of the team should look the same and there's no chance we don't see Scott... but if you believe in even the slightest bit of the intimidation factor, this is the game where it's needed.
Let's Go Hawks!