FACEOFF: 7:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
MUGS, PUGS, THUGS, HALFWITS, NITWITS, AND DIMWITS: St. Louis Gametime
I'm sure there's this nagging feeling in the back of your mind as well as mine that says even though this is the last scheduled regular season game, this will not be the last time this spring we have to deal with the illiterate and overfed down I-55. It's not hard to calculate. Hawks at #6, batting aside whoever survives the Pacific Division Royal Stumble, with the Blues at #1 in the West. Pretty simple stuff. But that's for another date, and for tonight both teams have something to be clinched. With a win and a regulation loss from the Yotes to the Sharks tonight in Glendale, the Hawks will clinch a playoff spot for the fourth straight year. May not sound like much, but take a moment to remember how long we all went without one. The Blues on the other hand can clinch the division with a win tonight, and no one here wants to be a witness to that. So there's plenty to play for.
For the Hawks, the only lineup change it appears is that Steve Montador will return to his dark, quiet room with soothing tones (maybe only in his head) that he probably won't emerge from again this season, and Michael Frolik will take his place on the 4th line. While I'd love to see Jimmy Hayes provide....well, the something that Brandon Bollig can't, Q will certainly dress Bollig so he can settle whatever AHL scores he hasn't already with Ryan Reaves. At least for the 1st period. Corey Crawford gets a chance to build on a pretty solid performance in New Jersey, and a chance to roll it right into the playoffs (though he probably has that already).
As you may have heard, it's been over three hours of game time since the Blues last gave up a goal. Three straight shutouts, all administered by Brian Elliot, which somehow results in Jaroslav Halak getting the start tonight. It actually makes sense, most everyone seems to think Halak will be the #1 in the playoffs, and he shouldn't sit too long between starts as he prepares to guide the Good Ship Inbred once the real games start. As for other injuries, neither Andy McDonald or Matt D'Agostini look to be in the lineup tonight. The first half of that is fine, as McDonald seemingly shreds the Hawks every time.
The two games at the UC between these two have followed a similar pattern, with the Blues running all over in the 1st to open up a lead, and then retreating for their huts and trailers in the final 40 which allows the Hawks just enough space to get back into it and eventually grab the two points. I expect the first part to stay the same, and will be interested in seeing how the Blues handle another lead here if they should get one. They can't be nearly as passive as they've been, because their blue line is just a shade too slow to not get overrun eventually. Then again, reckless pinching and pressure would see too many rushes the other way they're specifically designed to stop.
The absence of Keith will be felt tonight as much as it was against the Preds on Saturday, if not more so. While the Preds harass with their feet that gave Hjalmarsson and Seabrook all kinds of problems, the Blues exact their pound of flesh as well and that really turns Super Nintendo Hjalmers into a puddle. Last game it only pissed Seabrook off and he was cracking guys all over the ice until they left him alone. Hjalmarsson especially is going to have to show us a side of his game we haven't seen much of this year.
And for God's sake, make something happen on the power play. We know the Blues will give you chances, it's in their DNA. Teams have been pressuring a unit without any confidence, and stacking the blue line. But instead of just aimless ring-arounds, a simple chip into the same corner that the Hawks are attacking from should see them win the majority of races to said chipped-puck. If they can do that and get set up, the just FUCKING MOVE! If I watch Kane or Hossa curl out of the corner to see four statues and four killers only having to stand there to block lanes, so help me...
The Blues haven't won here in two years. That's something they'll have circled and will want to throw down a marker for any future proceedings against an understaffed Hawks team. Don't let them.
Special Note: If you're coming down to the UC tonight make sure you get a copy of tonight's Indian. The exchange between Gametime's Sean Gallagher and Winging It's JJ in the Q&A section is EPIC. You can also sign up for a digital copy there on the left of this site.