Photo: MGM

Have Yourself A Merry Little Winning Streak: 'Hawks Meet Blues In St. Louis

During the filming of “Meet Me In St. Louis,” Judy Garland was so pissed off at the depressing lyrics to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” that she went to her director (and not long after, husband), Vincente Minelli, and told him that she wasn’t going to sing it. They changed the lyrics at her request to something less dreary, and the song endures today.

Later in life, Garland proceeded to knock boots with any and every male co-star or singing legend she came across, tried to kill herself about three hundred times, and eventually died of an overdose of barbiturates. The Jordin Tootoo of her age, apparently.

What, too soon?

The Blackhawks are about to “Meet me in Saint Loo-EEEE, Loo-EEEE”, though something tells me the organist at the Scottrade Center won’t be playing any Judy Garland songs. Though if he is, it would probably be, “Strike Up The Band.” This outing will be the meeting of two winning streaks. Something’s gotta give.

St. Louis has won 3 in a row, and 6 of their last 10. They just leap-frogged Nashville in the standings (and into a playoff slot) after shutting them out 2 – 0 two nights ago — Jaroslav Halak’s fourth shutout of the season. 10 of their 35 games to date have gone past regulation time, and very few of their games are won or lost by a margin of more than two goals. This will be a close one.

The Blues are just shy of middle of the pack in goals-for, nothing exciting. Alex Steen is the sole Blues player with more than 10 goals, though four others are knocking on the door. Part of the reason for the consistently unlit lamps is the absence of creative offensive players Andy McDonald, TJ Oshie, and David Perron — all sidelined with injuries. But when you consider that Chicago has four players with at least 10 goals, even with the number of injuries to scoring wingers we’ve endured, you see just how lethargic the Blues’ offense is. To help get back in the groove, earlier today the Blues signed former Colorado forward Marek Svatos. He must clear waivers on Wednesday before being added to the lineup, so we will not see him this evening.

Going the other direction, one has to admit that the Blues do a decent job keeping goals out of their own net. Take away the 8 – 1 slaughter at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 10th, and they are right up there with the league leaders in goals-against. Their team save percentage is middle-of-the-pack, which suggests that the Blues are succeeding with defense, and not necessarily goaltending.

The defensive corps is led by Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson, both leading the team with 22:30 in ice time per game. Add to that the pesky consistency of Barret Jackoff Jackbag Jackstain Jackman, and it’s almost an afterthought that Roman Polak has returned to the lineup after healing from a wrist injury. So the Blues’ already-formidable defense is about to get even tougher.

Special teams is a particularly sour note for the Blues. (Sour NOTE… get it? Blues? Note? Blue… ah forget it…) St. Louis’ power play conversion rate is crap, and you can expect to score on them once in every five power play chances against them, give or take. With the Blackhawks’ power play on top of the league at a startling 25%, we may even exceed that expectation this evening.

And what if that outstanding Blackhawks power play had the added firepower of one of the league’s most effective snipers? Would that strike a chord?

Patrick Kane looked sharp skating with the team both at practice on Monday at the morning skate today, and is confirmed to be a “go” for the game against the Blues. Kane is coming off an ankle injury suffered in the Calgary game on December 5th, and rumors of his return have been in crescendo for over a week. Team doctors feel his ankle has had the full measure of rest. With luck he’ll inject his improvisational offense and up-tempo style back to the Blackhawks’ attack: hopefully he’ll be in perfect harmony with his linemates, and won’t miss a beat.

Incidentally, despite having missed nearly an entire month — essentially 9 games when you consider he was only on the ice for 23 seconds against Calgary — Kaner is still 3rd on the team in both goals and points.

Veteran netminder Marty Turco started the game against Columbus, and turned in a solid performance in a 4 – 1 victory while Corey Crawford sat watching the game at home with a bucket on his lap. Crawford is still not at full power, but he did accompany the team on the road and will serve as backup this time while Turco mans the pipes for his second straight start. Turco will have the Blackhawks’ four game winning streak in his hands when he lowers the mask this evening.

Who’s hot: Dave Bolland (shit, dude: where have you been?) with 4 G + 4 A = 8 points in his last 8 games played; Bryan Bickell, 6 + 4 = 10 in his last 9; and Duncan Keith, who has notched 1 goal and 3 assists and earned a +6 in his last 5 games.

Who’s not: Jordan Hendry, who has 0 points and was a -1 in his last 5 games, but who also sat out against Columbus and is scratched again tonight.

Administrative nonsense: Fernando Pisani did not practice this morning and will join Hendry in the press box; and newcomer Ryan Johnson will be the third odd-man out as Coach Joel Quenneville prefers to keep the otherwise useless John Scott in the lineup to provide some punching power against the pugilistic Blues. On the home team, Ty Conklin gets the nod in goal this evening.

7:00pm start time in St. Louis tonight. TV is Comcast SportsNet, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers can find the game on channel 209.

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