Apr 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) controls the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period in game four of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
After an uproarious success on this season’s circus trip and a few days off the, Chicago Blackhawks are back in Chicago to take on their biggest rivals, the St. Louis Blues.
This is the 2nd game of the 6-game season series between these Central Division rivals. St. Louis took the first game, in St. Louis on October 25th, by a score of 3-2. You can catch tonight’s game on NBC Sports Network and you can listen to it on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Blues.
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Statistically, the Hawks have a decent advantage in this one, which comes as a bit of a surprise, considering how the Blues typically fare and by the results they’ve gotten on the ice, this season. Offensively, the Hawks have come alive and are 8th best in the NHL, but they will have their work cut out for them, as they are up against the Blues’ 3rd ranked defense. St. Louis have merely been average, offensively, and will also face a mighty challenge, in the Hawks’ 2nd ranked defense.
When it comes to Special Teams, the Hawks have the edge, yet again. On the Power Play, the Hawks are hitting their stride, and are up to 16th best in the NHL, which isn’t great, but it’s definitely an improvement. They will be up against the Blues’ sub-par Penalty Killing unit, so they’ll have a good opportunity to keep the Power Play hot-streak rolling. The Hawks’ Penalty Killers are the best in the league and will have to face the very dangerous Blues’ 5th ranked Power Play.
Possession-wise, the Hawks are the better team, once again. In the faceoff circle, both teams are very good, but the Blues hold a slight advantage. Surprisingly, the Blues have struggled keeping the puck, as evidenced by their lackluster 21st best Corsi For Percentage. This is a big advantage for the Hawks, who are 2nd best in the league, in CF%. The weirdly bad CF% for St. Louis suggests that either their success this season has been heavily aided by luck or that they are not yet, as a team, firing on all cylinders. It’s probably a bit of both, but most likely more so the latter than the former.
The Blues are currently in 2nd place in the Central Division with a record of 16-6-2, which is good for 34 points in 24 games. Vladimir Tarasenko has been an absolute offensive freak out on the ice this season, and has 26 points in 24 games to show for it. While the Blues haven’t been great in positive puck possession, this season, Tarasenko’s line which is centered by rookie Jori Lehtera, who has 21 points, and veteran Alex Steen have been extremely dangerous, as a unit, in the offensive zone. Interestingly, Blues head coach, Ken Hitchcock almost always has his star captain, David Backes, start his shifts in their defensive zone, and he has respectable possession numbers, despite his less-than-stellar offensive production. On the blueline, the Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk are two of the best in the league.
In net will likely be Jake Allen, even though the Blues made headline by signing future hall-of-famer, Martin Brodeur. Allen has been solid as a padiwan/backup to Brian Elliot, this season, with a .918 Save Percentage, in 11 games played.
The Hawks are currently 15-8-1, which is good for 31 points in 24 games and 3rd place in the Central, 3 points behind the Blues. Hopefully the sight of the infamous Blue music note, on the sweater’s of tonight’s opponents is enough to motivate the Hawks into not having to worry about the dreaded “trap game”. The line of Brad Richards, Patrick Kane, and Kris Versteeg has been an absolute world-eater, lately, and they will be counted on to keep it going, tonight. While the aforementioned line has been lighting lamps like crazy, the top-line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad has been okay, but not great offensively as of late, which is largely due to the fact that they have been tasked with shutting down opponents top-lines. The elite defensive play of the Hawks is largely thankful to elite defensemen, like Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson. However, the smart defensive play of center, Marcus Kruger, is also keeping pucks away from the Hawks net on the Penalty Kill, as well as 5-on-5.
The trap game is a real thing, but hopefully the Hawks are readjusted to life back home, as tonight’s a big one, as are all games against the Blues. It’ll be interesting, no doubt about it.