Tomorrow night, the Chicago Blackhawks welcome their old rivals the St. Louis Blues to the United Center for the first of three big games in April. The Blues are coming off an impressive road win versus the Minnesota Wild and are proudly proclaiming their desperation. “We’re a desperate team right now. We needed points as bad as anyone,” said center David Backes.
I like that. Own your desperation.
Ooh that felt good.
ANYWAYS…outplaying St. Louis this month SHOULD knock them out of the playoffs and put Chicago in the driver seat for the #1 seed, so let’s take a gander at the match-ups and see where the party’s at.
GOALIES: This one’s a no brainer. St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak left Monday’s game with 12.5 seconds to go in the first period after sprawling for a save on a slap shot. He’s already done a little time on the DL this year for a groin so this could get messy. Backup tender Brian Elliott stepped in and played well, however his 3.51 GAA and his 4-6 record classify him as painfully mediocre. On the other hand, Hawks’ goalies Corey Crawford and Ray Emery boast 1.97 and 2.09 GAAs respectively and have a COMBINED five losses in regulation. This makes these men officially beefcake. ADVANTAGE HAWKS.
DEFENSEMEN: The Blues have picked up two big name defensemen in the last 72 hours in an effort to shore up the leak that has been their defense as of late. They acquired Jay Bouwmeester from the Calgary Flames in exchange for a first-round pick and two prospects just two days after trading for Jordan Leopold.
These moves are noble and will no doubt help them tighten up, however let’s face it: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson are three of the very best. Their +32 combined plus/minus rating stands a staggering 52 points above the Blues top three defensemen (Bouwmeester, Leopold and Alex Pietrangelo) who are slumming around at -20. No contest. ADVANTAGE HAWKS.
WINGERS: We’ll touch upon the guys on the top lines for the brevity’s sake, however feel free to believe me when I tell you the Hawks are deep, and rich, and getting solid production from all four lines while the Blues’ offensive production from its wingers stalls out like an old VW bus after the first line. Patrick Kane is having a monster season. Period. 19 goals and 24 assists put him at 43 points and 14 ahead of St. Louis RW Chris Stewart (15 goals, 14 assists) who leads their team in points.
The Blues list Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen as their top line guys, but since they have ten goals between them it seems unfair to bring up Marian Hossa’s 13 goals and Brandon Saad who’s having a rookie of the year caliber season while starting alongside Kane and center Jonathan Toews. ADVANTAGE HAWKS.
CENTERS: If we’re gonna give the Blues any credit at all, it’s got to be here. Obviously captain Toews has the edge over Backes with 17 goals and 19 assists versus three and 17 for the Blues captain, however Toews’ face off percentage is way down from years past and the Hawks went out and traded for Michal Handzus specifically because they felt they needed more from the position behind Toews. Patrik Berglund’s 14 goals from the second line are more than what St. Louis could’ve hoped for (he had 19 all last season) and so begrudgingly I’m going to have to call this a push. EVEN.
So according to the tale of the tape, the Hawks should beat up on this team pretty good, right? Well two of these last three are in St. Louis, and as the Blues might be playing for a playoff spot when the two teams finish the season against each other in St. Louis on April 27th, chances are I’ll be ranting plenty over the next month about how the Hawks are underachieving versus these guys.
What else would you expect from a desperate man?