July 29th, 2020: Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues Preview
By Ryan Fedrau
The Chicago Blackhawks’ long-awaited return to hockey happens tonight against the St. Louis Blues. Here’s everything fans need to know beforehand.
Regular Season Records:
Chicago: 32-30-8, 72 points (12th in West)
St. Louis: 42-19-10, 94 points (1st in West)
Blackhawks’ Team Leaders:
Patrick Kane – 84 points (33G, 51A)
Jonathan Toews – 60 points (18G, 42A)
Dominik Kubalik – 46 points (30G, 16A)
The last time the Chicago Blackhawks shared the ice with the St. Louis Blues was on March 8th, 2020, the night where the NHL made history with an all-female broadcast. That night was special for many reasons, but the Blackhawks fell 2-0 to their rival in a close matchup.
Chicago has been just out-matched by St. Louis recently. The Blues have won the last four games, including some late-game heroics to steal wins from the Blackhawks. It’s been frustrating, to say the least.
Even though this game means nothing, it’s still something that could help Chicago’s confidence if they can go out and beat the team who took the season series 4-0.
The question marks surrounding this game starts in net for both teams. It’s expected for the Blackhawks to give Corey Crawford the starting job if he is ready to go on Saturday, but how much time will he see tonight?
I would give Crawford a period or two, something that will give him a feel for the puck at an NHL level again, as he missed time due to being sick with the Coronavirus. After that, I would give either Malcolm Subban or Collin Delia the rest of the game.
There’s an excitement around the second line for the Blackhawks. I see great things coming from Alex Nylander, Dylan Strome, and Patrick Kane. That could be the line that helps them succeed against the Oilers, starting on Saturday night.
A key focus is the defensive pairings. Both teams are allowed to play 13 skaters and 7 defensemen in the exhibition game, so where will the younger guys fit? Who is fighting for a spot and who already has one?
Chicago has a lot of question marks going into this one, but they’re good question marks. They have the youngest team in the playoffs, for better or for worse. They also have a solid core group of players, surrounded by young, hungry players.
I’m not expecting the world to be shocked from one exhibition game, but we’ll get a pretty good idea of what we’re dealing with after tonight’s game.
Blues’ Team Leaders:
Ryan O’Reilly – 61 points (12G, 49A)
David Perron – 60 points (25G, 35A)
Brayden Schenn – 58 points (25G, 33A)
The Blues will have Jordan Binnington play the first two periods in net, with Jake Allen finishing the game in the third, per Blues’ coach Craig Berube.
Who has the edge?
The Blues have the edge statically, as they’ve beaten the Blackhawks all four times this season. During the regular season, the Blues had the third-best power play, sixth-best faceoff percentage, and fifth-best goals-against average.
The Blackhawks cancel out their power play with a solid penalty kill of their own, but their 28th ranked power play helps the Blues 18th ranked penalty kill.
It should be a good game, as these two teams always show up for this rivalry. I’m just excited for hockey to finally be back!
Puck Drop is at 6:30 PM ET. You can catch the game on NBCSN, NHL Network, NBC Sports Chicago, and NHL.TV! Let’s Go Hawks! #AllForOne