On Wedndesday, October 9th, the Chicago Blackhawks were defeated by their fellow Central Division rival, the St. Louis Blues, by a score of 3-2, in a hard fought matchup, in St. Louis. Tonight, the same two teams will face each other again, this time in Chicago, as both teams are looking for an early edge, in the Central Division standings.
Since the previous game against the Blackhawks, the Blues defeated the New York Rangers, and lost a controversial blow out, at the hands of the San Jose Sharks, to end what was an impressive season opening 5-game home stand, with a record of 4-1, good for 8 points. This will be the Blues first road game of the season, and it couldn’t have come in a less Blues friendly building. So far this season, the Blues offense has been lead by Alexander Steen, who has 8 points, in 5 games played. First year Blue, Derek Roy, is off to a fast start, with 6 points, so far. The Hawks will as always have to keep an eye on Blues’ captain, David Backes, who can light the lamp, as well as get under the skin of opponents, and their fans. The Blues’ defensive core is anchored by star d-man, Alex Pietrangelo, who has chipped in 5 points, from the blue line. Although the Blues have good players up and down the roster, they often live and die by their goaltending, which is usually elite. Jaroslav Halak, who was pulled from Tuesday’s loss to the Sharks, is usually one of the top goalies, in the Western Conference. The Blues will need to be running on all cylinders tonight, if they want to win a mighty test, in their first road game of the season.
The Blackhawks have developed a bit of a winning streak, since their last meeting with the Blues, but it hasn’t exactly come easily. The Hawks have won 3 games in a row, but they haven’t exactly been pretty. Great starts, with disappointing finishes that have ended with the Hawks luckily hanging on, for a victory and 2 points. The offense has yet to really start producing at the level, that most expect from the Hawks’ roster. Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad have been the primary sources of offense, for the Hawks so far this season, with the rest of the usual suspects, like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa beginning to find their respective scoring touches. Jonathan Toews has done it all, as expected this season, but is still looking to consistently put up points, and turn his +/- rating of -1 into a more typical Toews like positive rating. Niklas Hjalmarsson has undoubtly been the MVP of the blue line for the Hawks, thus far, but you can never truly, fully appreciate what Duncan Keith does on a night-to-night basis, for the defending champs. Corey Crawford looks to get the start in net tonight, for the Hawks, and he has been so far, so good, this season.
Although these games are taking place so early in the season, these games between the Blackhawks and Blues are likely to have the biggest immediate impact on the Central Division playoff picture. In the end, if first place is up for grabs, between the Hawks and Blues, the outcomes of these games will have likely played the biggest role, in determining the final standings. It should be a great game, tonight!