Game Time: 7:30 Central
Desert Search For Techno Allah: Five For Howling
A term that has been getting thrown around a lot lately is that of "trap game". We've used it here in reference to the Carolina game, and it was also used in reference to whatever Wednesday was against the Blues. If such a thing exists for a foul-mouthed blog, this would be it. We're probably going to get caught looking ahead to the mayhem and chaos that surely lie ahead for the St. Louis road trip tomorrow. But we'll fight the urge to have one foot already in the limo before the final horn of the game at hand tonight.
So the 'Yotes come into town for the first time this year as one of the biggest surprises as a team in the entire league this year. After the embarrassing ownership saga this past summer, as well as then-coach Wayne Gretzky stepping down, the Desert Dogs have shocked many by being tied for second in the Pacific and fourth in the conference with the Kings at 73 points, a mere five points behind our beloved Blackhawks. Most of the credit can be placed on coach Dave Tippett, who brings a structured game that Gretz really wasn't interested in teaching, as well as goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. While Breezy's save percentage and GAA have come back to earth (still a very respectible 2.27 and .920) from the gaudy numbers they were at to start the season, he's still fifth in the league with 30 wins, and is obviously capable of stealing a game. Offensively the Yotes are right in the middle of the pack in basically every category, and give up basically as many shots as they take (29.3 to taking 29.6), so the opportunities for the Hawks to fire away should be there. Led, as usual, by Captain Underrated Shane Doan with 43 points, it's clear that it's offense by committee. The most ridiculous statistic from a Hawks fan's perspective: Radim Vrbata (Radim FUCKING Vrbata?!) is pacing the Coyotes with a team-best +13. Seriously? The Yotes roll into town tonight winning their last five, and eight of their last 10, so no one should expect these dogs to roll over as they have the past couple years.
Conversely, our Men of Four feathers have lost 4 of their last 7, and are looking tonight to still remain the only team in the league without a 3-game losing skid. Coach Q is once again looking to play Dr. Moreau with his unholy hybrid lines, this time with Patrick Sharp now centering Kris Versteeg and Big Buff, and Dave Bolland getting his shot with old linemate Andrew Ladd, as well as keys to the Ferrari with Marian Hossa now on his right. While this move seems like punishment for Sharp who has reshaped his game well at center and couldn't wait for Bolland to return so he could go back to a wing, it seems like more of an effort to jump start the invisible Versteeg and the once again disinterested Byfuglien. All of this leaves John Madden on the fourth line, but between who is anyone's guess, as Quenneville has stated that Colin Fraser will play, but has not stated who will be scratched. And this is Quenneville we're talking about, so all of this could be out the window by the first intermission, and hopefully it takes longer than that for Madden to go all kali ma on Ben Eager for taking a boneheaded penalty. Of bigger concern is the defensive zone coverage, particularly from the Olympic duo of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Perhaps the increased workload and compressed schedule have caught up to them, but their decision making in their own end has been severely out of character for both. Whatever is causing it, it needs to be corrected in short order, as no goalie can be asked to make every save with some of the quality chances that they've yielded. Here's hoping it starts tonight. Let's go Hawks.
UPDATE: Jason LaBarbera will start in net for the Coyotes tonight. Thanks to SharpKane for the update. Also, Kopecky is sitting. Thanks to modnar.
Reminder- For everyone going on the St. Louis trip tomorrow, we will be meeting at Maggie Obrien's, 2000 Market St. in St. Louis. We will be there from about 4pm on.