For seemingly the longest time, both Blues and Hawks fans, despite their hatred for one another, were at least unified in their mutual abhorrence of all things winged wheel, mostly out jealousy and the most begrudging type of admiration possible. But alas, Sam's brother in renegade publishing Gallagher, and the rest of his merry band of followers were left behind yet again last year as the Blackhawks ascended to the astral plane that we barely dared dream about previously, and judging by the comments in the Game 6 thread last June, were none too pleased about their current station.
Over the off-season, the Blues certainly made the biggest singular move within the division, acquiring Jaroslav Halak, who while stellar in the playoffs, ultimately won as much as the Blues themselves did last year. To this point, in three starts, he's been solid, boasting a 2.00 GAA and a .909 save percentage in 3 starts while facing a paltry 20 shots per contest. The Blues also administered some Vagisil to their roster by cutting ties with Paul Kariya and his discharge, who ended up deciding to sit out the season with post concussion symptoms anyway. Davis Payne and his lack of a first name brings his team and their 2-1-1 record into the UC tonight off a shoot-out loss to the Stars on Saturday, where they put 43 shots on net and still came away with only the participant point. Matt D'Agostini (yes, that Matt D'Agostini) paces the Blues with three goals, and whirling dervish/Rick Nash's nightmare T.J. Oshie does so in points with 4. Eric Johnson, while relatively quiet on the stat sheet to this point with a lone assist and an even +/-, leads their defensemen with just a pube north of 21 minutes a night, but is nonetheless is not to be taken lightly on their back end, or in the offensive zone either for that matter. The Blues are certainly improved from last year (how could they not be?), but that certainly won't preclude the likes of Barret Jackman, B.J. Crombeen, and newcomer Ryan Reaves from turning this into the chippy affair it usually is between these two teams, even with professional bag of dicks Cam Janssen out with a concussion (though it was admittedly tough to diagnose given his limited mental capacity in the first place).
That certainly seems to be the type of game that Joel Quenneville is banking on, with word coming in that John Scott will once again dressing at forward, this time at the expense of Viktor Stalberg, and Jack Skille re-enters the lineup tonight. It would be understandable if John Scott had any worth whatsoever other than the pugilistic arts, but he's yet to have a tangle yet this season. Chalk that up to scare tactics or intimidation if you will, but as recent as last year, the Hawks were far more interested in being decidedly better at hockey than sink to the level of 60-minute game of Grab-Ass/Slap-Dick, and the only rationale in the change in philosphy that I could come up with to this point is that they're trying to give me a seizure. But that's not all, the Hawks are now officially slower and dumber on the blue line as well, with Nick Leddy getting sent to Rockford yesterday in favor of keeping Hooch-in-Bauers Jassen Cullimore around, leaving one true puck moving defensemen in the Hawks entire corps in Duncan Keith, who desperately needs his minutes reduced, as it seems it's affecting the oxygen to his brain and consequently his decision making. The Hawks are allowing an unacceptable 33.7 shots against per game, not necessarily due to the fact that they're playing that much worse defensively, but because they've had the puck 200 feet away from their own net less as a result of their blue line being in flux, most directly from having Brian Campbell still weeks away from return. Not helping matters is Jonathan Toews' annual slow October, which he's now managed every year of his career. With the way I'm laying it out, one would think the Hawks have been wretched to this point, but in contrast, they're actually coming off two straight wins, propelled almost entirely by Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, both of whom sit atop the league leaders in goals, and Hossa in points as well. Any concerns about the condition of Sharp's gray matter were likely put to bed over the weekend, and he and Hossa are dragging the offense into the realm of competence, albeit kicking and screaming. Marty Turco gets the nod again tonight, and entertaining as it may be, it'd likely be best to not have him flailing about every square inch below the hash marks for 60 minutes. I know it sounds crazy, but it's worth a shot.
Let's Go Hawks.