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Roll Over Beethoven: Blackhawks at Blues Preview

Here’s where we point and laugh at the Blues’ misfortunes this season.

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NHL: OCT 08 Blackhawks at Blues Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks are in Missouri on Thursday to take on the St. louis Blues for the second time this season.

The last time they met was on Nov. 16, the Blackhawks were defeated 5-2 by the Blues.

The Blues enter this game with much more at stake than the Blackhawks, as they’re still fighting for a playoff spot. St. Louis currently has a 16-16-2 record, are fifth in the Central Division and five points out of the second wild card spot. However, while five points may not seem like a lot with several months left in the season, the Blues would have to jump at least three teams to get there. Plus, they’ve been on a three-game losing streak — although they did manage to earn a point in their last two games.

Despite their losing streak, the Blues have been scoring at a decent pace, managing to put up 20 goals over their last five games — up from their season average of just 3.06 per game. In their latest game, St. Louis put up four goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but lost 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday night. The Blues never held a lead in the game, but rallied from deficits of 3-1 and 4-3.

The Blues tend to get most of their production from their top-six, including three players at or very close to a point-per-game rate. Rising star Jordan Kyrou leads the team with 17 goals and 16 assists in 32 games, Pavel Buchnevich is close behind him with 15 goals and 12 assists in 26 games, and Robert Thomas completes the trio with eight goals and 24 assists in 32 games. Kyrou is also on a five-game point streak with seven points in that span.

Vladimir Tarasenko (10 G, 19 A) and Brayden Schenn (7 G, 20 A) round out the top forwards for production. Top center Ryan O’Reilly is the only player in the top-six having a disappointing offensive season — just 16 points (10 G, 6 A) in 35 games — but he tends to make up for that with his play-driving and defensive prowess. Justin Faulk (6 G, 14 A) and Torey Krug (5 G, 12 A) chip in from the blue line, though the latter was injured on Dec. 23 in the game against the Vegas Golden Knights and was recently placed on on long-term injured reserve.

Despite their goal-scoring surge, the Blues have still been losing, and it seems the main culprit is their shot suppression — or lack thereof. Over their last five games, St. Louis has allowed 34.75 shots against per 60, the sixth worst rate in the league in that span. Against the Leafs Tuesday, they allowed 37 shots. It’s put a lot of pressure on their struggling powder keg of a starting goalie, Jordan Binnington, who has just a .903 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average in his last three starts. Because of this poor shot suppression, the Blues are one of the worst goals against team in the league, allowing 3.66 against per game — 28th in the NHL and only slightly better than the Blackhawks own 3.73 rate (29th).

If the Blackhawks want to get back into the win column, they’re going to need to figure out how to exploit the Blues inability to prevent shots on goal while keeping the Blues to minimal scoring chances. It’s an uphill battle, but not an unreachable win.

Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Blues

42.02% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 46.11% (27th)

41.38% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 46.73% (24th)

2.27 (32nd) — Goals per game — 3.06 (19th)

3.73 (29th) — Goals against per game — 3.66 (28th)

56.8% (1st) — Faceoffs — 49.9% (15th)

21.2% (19th) — Power play — 23.5% (18th)

71.8% (27th) — Penalty kill — 71.4% (28th)

How to watch

When: 7 p.m. CT

Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV

(Quick note: The projected lineups will be part of another article that’ll run later in the day as part of a shift in how we handle previews here.)