FACEOFF: 7pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
BLOG PRODUCED BY THOSE WHO CAN'T WRITE FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN'T READ: St. Louis Gametime
It's always bad enough to spend any time in the burgh on the other side of the Mississippi that culture, cleanliness, and any sort of redeeming quality forgot. It's worse right now, because this is probably not the time to be catching the Blues. Then again, there hasn't really ever been a point this season when it was a good time against the Notes, and the past few years these have rarely been fun for the Hawks. Except for the last two meetings, of course.
While the Hawks caught a Senators team that played right into their hands, and a shorthanded Scum that got more shorthanded as the game went along to aid in this Captain Marvel-less win streak, they'll get no such benefit tonight. After putting the old Felsian curse on their recent road trip where I wondered allowed how they'd look after it, the Blues return to the banks of the damned and inbred after having aced a six-game road trip at 5-1. The only loss was a hard fought one in Vancouver. Needless to say, thanks to the excitement that trip and their current tie with Scum Sr. at the top of the Central will have engendered among their illiterate faithful, the DrinkScotch Center will be jumping tonight.
You know what that means. The first 5-10 minutes, if not more, will see a lot of blue-colored jerseys on a meth binge looking to splatter anything in white on the glass (um...what?). The Blues won't care a jot about creating pretty plays, consistently chipping pucks behind the Hawks defense and then basically trying Hanson Brother their way into converting Hawks mistakes and turnovers. It is a system that has worked before.
On the other side, they'll force the Hawks to do the same. The blue line will not be available. The neutral zone will look like the Kennedy during the summer. Patrick Kane will have David Backes punching him in the back of the head all night in that oh so manly fashion of his that drives the drooling hordes of Blues fans into a frenzy before they go home and punch their girlfriends. Or go home and punch their boyfriends, or however it works down there. Either way, they'll tell you that's how they express love.
And without Toews, you worry about how the Hawks will find the chances. They did last time at the UC, with a slice of luck here and there. But the offense tonight is primarily, maybe even exclusively, going to be created through forecheck and getting traffic to the net, which isn't exactly the Hawks forte.
And with the offense running through Patrick Kane these days, it'll be a huge test of his center-capability tonight. He's not going to get the room of the past three games to make things happen. He's going to get physically abused at every turn, and it probably won't matter if the whistle has already gone or not. He hasn't always fought through it, and he has to tonight.
The other key, as it always is against these fuckers, is special teams. While the Blues have improved almost every facet of their game this season, they still get penalty-happy. They have a good kill, but the Hawks have to find a way into a PP goal or two. And they can't give up any, though the Blues PP isn't any juggernaut either. And with the Blues likely frothing at the mouth after returning home after a glorious trip to face their biggest rival, it's not a huge leap to conclude that discipline might not be a part of the package.
I can't help but think the first goal tonight is huge. The Hawks haven't been great recently at getting it. If the Blues get it early and send that dump into orbit, it could get away from the Hawks in a hurry. If the Hawks get it, or even better the first two, this is not a Blues team equipped to claw back leads and may open up things at the other end. They are built to sit on your head once they're in front.
The Hawks swept the Central Double a couple weeks ago at the UC. It'll be much trickier to do so in reverse on the road.