Here’s what the Blues’ forwards have done, this season.
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While the Blues’ overall Corsi numbers aren’t quite as impressive as the Hawks’, they are still very good. As a team, the Blues ranked 7th, in the NHL, with a Corsi For Percentage of 52.7%.
The Blues’ forwards aren’t deployed the same way the Hawks’ forwards are. While Coach Q uses his forwards based more on game situation and zone starts, Blues’ head coach, Ken Hitchcock prefers to use the matchups more. Depending on which opponent’s forwards are on the ice, Hitchcock will use specific forwards to counter them. So, having home-ice advantage, which also comes with the last change, and choice in players on the ice, may turn out to be a big advantage, for the Blues.
However, injuries to some of the Blues best forwards certainly changes things. T.J. Oshie, David Backes, and Vladimir Sobotka have all recently missed time with injuries, recently, and while they still aren’t confirmed to return, it is expected that they will all be ready, for Game 1. If any of these players aren’t able to return, or they aren’t able to return 100%, could be great news for the Hawks’ chances.
Oshie, the Olympic hero, is one of the biggest offensive threats, for St. Louis. Sobotka has his moments, offensively, but he is very tough to play against, and tilts the ice, when he’s out there. Backes is the Blues’ captain, and is easy to dislike. Cheap shots, are an ugly side-effect of his chippy physical play. He is in fact a very good player, and can produce points, with the best of them, but Hitchcock often uses him as a neutralizer, for opponents offenses.
Also injured, and confirmed out for at least Game 1, are Brenden Morrow, Patrik Berglund, and Vladimir Tarasenko. All 3 of these players could likely miss the entire series, against the Hawks, which is a huge blow, to the Blues’ chances.
The Blues will for sure have 2 of their biggest offensive threats, in Alex Steen and Jaden Schwartz. A forward to watch would be Steve Ott. Ott is a player, that the writer of this article finds to be overrated, but he is a physical presence, on the ice, and will likely be on the ice, when the recently injured Patrick Kane and/or Jonathan Toews are on the ice. Look for Ott to infuriate Hawks’ fans, this series, but if he fails to do so, that means the Hawks are likely walking away, with this series. Don’t count on it though.
You have to give the advantage, with the forwards, to the Blackhawks, in this series. That doesn’t mean the Hawks will walk away with this one, especially if Hitchcock’s matchups go according to plan. If that happens, this could be a very frustrating series, for the Hawks. It will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
Check back tomorrow for the Blackhawks/Blues defensemen preview.