The Blues are on the high end of an up-and-down start to 2020, a year that started with a 2-7-3 stretch from mid-January through mid-February. Starting with a Feb. 18 win over the New Jersey Devils, though, the Blues ripped off eight straight wins to move back atop the Central Division standings, sitting two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche’s 88 points entering Sunday’s games — although Colorado still owns a game in hand. That winning streak was snapped by the Devils in a 4-2 road loss on Friday night and includes a 6-5 St. Louis win over Chicago on Feb. 25 that saw the Blackhawks take a 3-1 lead, fall behind 4-3 in the third, move back in front 5-4 and then give up two late goals to clinch their loss.
All of this is happening in St. Louis without Vladimir Tarasenko, the team’s top offensive threat who’s been out since late October but has resumed skating and should return in the upcoming weeks. What the Blues lack in a clear-cut, No. 1 scoring threat they’ve made up for in depth. David Perron leads the team with 60 points (25 goals, 35 assists) but three other Blues forwards are also over the 50-point plateau: Ryan O’Reilly (12 goals, 47 assists), Brayden Schenn (25 goals, 31 assists) and Jaden Schwartz (22 goals, 33 assists). On the blue line, Alex Pietrangelo has 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists) while continuing his strong play from last season’s playoff push. He’s also the top defenseman on the St. Louis power play, which enters this game with a 24.5 percent conversion rate that’s third-best in the league. In net, Jordan Binnington’s numbers may not quite match his season debut totals of a .927 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average But posting a .911 and 2.57, respectively, in 49 games this season have been more than enough to keep the Blues in contention.
With St. Louis winning the first three meetings between the division rivals this season, the Blackhawks will be looking to avoid their first season sweep at the hands of the Blues in franchise history. Chicago owns the only season sweep in this series: a 6-0 whitewash of St. Louis during the 1971-72 NHL season. After Friday’s debacle in Detroit, the Blackhawks are in sore need of a bounce-back performance while clinging to their ever-shrinking playoff hopes. Indications from the morning skate have Corey Crawford making his ninth consecutive start in net and Adam Boqvist returning from the wrist injury that sidelined him on Friday night.
The story is probably familiar by now: Chicago’s path to a playoff spot remains steep and, with only 14 games remaining, there’s not much time left to erase a six-point gap and leap four teams in the standings, both tricks the Blackhawks must turn to end their two-season playoff drought. After wasting a golden chance for two more points on Friday night, the Blackhawks have to steal some wins against teams that are well ahead of them in the standings.
They’d be wise to start that trend on Sunday night at home.
Let’s go Hawks!
And, as a reminder, this evening’s broadcast is a historic one, as it will feature the country’s first all-female broadcast.
Tale of the Tape
Blackhawks — Statistic — Blues
46.78% (28th) — Corsi For — 49.8% (18th)
46.6% (28th) — Expected goals for — 48.9% (21st)
2.97 (t-17th) — Goals per game — 3.18 (11th)
3.09 (18th) — Goals against per game — 2.74 (6th)
14.8% (29th) — Power play — 24.5% (3rd)
82.2% (9th) — Penalty kill — 79.2% (18th)
Kubalik — Toews — Saad
Nylander — Strome— Kane
DeBrincat — Dach — Caggiula
Highmore — Kampf— Carpenter
Keith — Boqvist
Maatta — Koekkoek
Seeler — Murphy
Sanford — O’Reilly — Perron
Schwartz — Schenn — Blais
Steen — Thomas — Bozak
MacEachern — Sundqvist — Barbashev
Gunnarsson — Pietrangelo
Scandella — Parayko
Dunn — Bortuzzo
How to watch
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Network
Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV