The Chicago Blackhawks, at 6-6-3, are still fifth in the Central Division after 15 games of the 2022-23 campaign. While one of the teams below them was expected to be there — the Arizona Coyotes — the other two were not.
One of those is the St. Louis Blues, who the Blackhawks will host at the United Center on Wednesday night.
After starting the season 3-0, St. Louis lost eight in a row. The Blues are back on the right foot now after winning three straight, but they remain at the bottom of the division standings.
The Blackhawks haven’t faced their closest (divisional) rival yet this season, with both teams near the quarter post of the schedule. Meanwhile, St. Louis has faced just three divisional opponents, the most recent being the Colorado Avalanche on Monday: a 3-2 victory for the Blues.
The Blues are led in scoring by 31-year-old Brayden Schenn, who has 12 points (3 G, 9 A) in 14 games so far this season. Three other players — Vladimir Tarasenko, Justin Faulk and Robert Thomas — are at 11 points each. No Blues player is currently at a point-per-game pace (similar to the Blackhawks, who have Patrick Kane leading at 12 points in 15 games after a slow start).
While the Blackhawks are getting better goaltending than they deserve (or likely want) to start this season, the Blues currently are ... not. Jordan Binnington comes in to this game with a .904 save percentage, which went up significantly after posting marks of .900, .944 and .957 in his last three games. He had a massive rough patch earlier this season, including a game on Halloween night against the Los Angeles Kings with five goals against on just 19 shots — a night that ended with Binnington being pulled in the second period. Thomas Greiss, who the Blues essentially swapped for Ville Husso, has a .899 save percentage. Husso, meanwhile, has a .920 mark after a .919 save percentage last season. Loser says, “Oops.”
The Blues are also off to a rough start in terms of possession, just 26th in the league with a 45.11 shot attempt share at 5-on-5 and 27th in shot share with at 46.09 percent. While both are better than the Blackhawks, the Blues were expected to be a much better team coming into this season.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks continue to meander through injuries, as Seth Jones and Tyler Johnson remain on injured reserve while Alex Stalock remains in concussion protocol. Stalock already had a heart condition following a COVID-19 infection, so concussion woes are a blight atop a blight for the Blackhawks’ better goaltender so far this year. All three of those players could be nearing a return, though, with Johnson the closest, based on Tuesday’s practice:
Blackhawks practicing again today. Seth Jones and Alex Stalock skated on their own beforehand. Tyler Johnson is participating. Max Domi, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews out for maintenance.— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) November 15, 2022
The Blackhawks have seen scoring from Kane, along with Jonathan Toews and Max Domi are also tied at 10 points apiece. Nobody else has more than seven points on the Blackhawks roster, although there are three players (Jason Dickinson, Taylor Raddysh and Sam Lafferty) currently at that mark.
Chicago’s last game was a 3-0 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday after beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 on Saturday. This game will test whether the rebounding Blues will make their way back up the standings or whether coach Luke Richardson can continue to beat teams beneath Chicago in the standings.
Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Blues
40.9% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 45.11% (26th)
41.24% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 48.86% (19th)
2.53 (30th) — Goals per game — 2.43 (32nd)
3.00 (14th) — Goals against per game — 3.57 (27th)
58.5% (1st) — Faceoffs — 50.2% (16th)
21.7% (15th) — Power play — 21.6% (16th)
75.9% (24th) — Penalty kill — 72.4% (27th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Kurashev — Domi — P. Kane
Athanasiou — Toews — Raddysh
Entwistle — Dickinson — Lafferty
Katchouk — R. Johnson — Khaira
J. Johnson — C. Jones
Tinordi — Murphy
McCabe — Roos
Buchnevich — Thomas — Tarasenko
Saad — O’Reilly — Leivo
Barbashev — Schenn — Kyrou
Alexandrov — Acciari — Pitlick
Leddy — Parayko
Krug — Faulk
Rosen — Mikkola
How to watch
When: 6:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV