Oct 17, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88) is defended by St. Louis Blues center Patrik Berglund (21) during the first period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
You couldn’t have asked for a better midseason matchup than this. The Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues, 2 Central Division rivals, 2 Central Division elites, and 2 NHL elites. This one will be interesting.
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Statistically, it’s hard to pick a favorite, here. The Blues might be a slight favorite, as they are more consistently, across the board near the league lead, in just about every category. The same goes for the Blackhawks, with the exception of Penalty Killing and Save Percentage, where the Blues are at least solid, if not above average. While the Blackhawks lead the league in offense, by a wide margin, the Blues are the next best team, in that regard, so they are definitely a force to be reckoned with.
The Blues are currently sitting pretty, in 2nd place, in the mighty Central Division, 7 points behind the division leading Blackhawks, but with 4 less games played, than the division leading Hawks. This will be the first game for the Blues, following the Christmas Break. The Blues have gone 6-2-2, in their last 10 games. The all-around NHL elite, Blues, are lead by captain David Backes, but will be without the services of offensive renaissance man, Alex Steen. While the Blues will miss Steen, they have plenty of firepower, up and down their roster. T.J Oshie, Derek Roy, and Jaden Schwartz have all provided copious amounts of points, up front, and although he hasn’t had a great season, Vladimir Tarasenko is one to keep an eye on, especially with the absence of Steen. Alex Pietrangelo is one of the league’s best defenseman, while Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester have contributed large amounts of offense, from the blueline.
In net, Jaroslav Halak is typically one of the best goaltenders, in the NHL, but he hasn’t had his best season, thus far. He boasts a .909 save percentage, which is just okay, but definitely manageable, when the team playing in front of him, is dominating most of the NHL.
The Blackhawks are entering their 2nd game in 2 nights, coming out of the Christmas Break. Last night’s big win, over their fellow division mate, the Colorado Avalanche, has the Hawks comfortably, in 1st place, in the Central Division. Wins on back-to-back to back nights, over the Avalanche and the Blues would do wonders in solidifying the Blackhawks as NHL juggernauts, as well as more breathing room, between them, and 2nd place, in the Central. The Patrick’s continue to lead the way, for the Hawks. Patrick Sharp has 5 goals, in his last 2 games, as well as 10(!) in his past 9, including last night’s hat trick. Patrick Kane increased his points streak to 13 games, last night, as he continues his best season of his career. Duncan Keith chips in enough points, from the blueline, to be a first line forward, in the NHL, as he continues his road to his 2nd Norris Trophy. When previewing the Hawks, it’s impossible not to mention, the rarely flashy, but always great, captain Jonathan Toews, and his excellent all-around game.
In net, Antti Raanta has done more than good job of filling in for the injured, Corey Crawford. In his 1st season, in North American, Raanta has played very well, to a .915 save percentage, in 13 games played. If Raanta starts tonight, and wins, he will have proved a lot, buy beating 2 solid to very good teams, on little rest.
Two of the best teams, in the Central Division, two of the best teams, in the NHL, and two teams that really don’t like each other very much. You couldn’t ask for more, in a midseason game. This will be a great game!