Game Preview: Blackhawks Host the Blues
Wednesday evening (6:30 PM CT) the Chicago Blackhawks will "welcome" in the St. Louis Blues. Before the season started, if you would have told me that on November 16th the Hawks would have a better record than the Blues I would not have believed you!
Chicago is still holding on to that .500 point percentage mark mid way through the month. Do not let these records fool you however as St. Louis has won 3 in a row after a disastrous start. The last 2 matchups, in particular, have shown a Blues group that most around the league expected from the start. They have gone on the road to beat both the Golden Knights and the Avalanche.
So which team will Chicago face? Captain Ryan O'Reilly was not ready to begin the season and still only has 5 points in 14 games. So will we see a slow footed captain or the one that has 3 points in his last 2 against cup contenders? Newly re-signed Jordan Kyrou hasn't played well either and sports a -17 in 14 games (I know that stat isn't everything). Yet he had an important goal last night versus Colorado in a 1 goal victory.
Cup winning goalie Jordan Binnington mostly has appeared to be a shell of his former self in his first 9 starts and yet has saved 79 of his last 83 against Vegas and Colorado. So whom will show up to the UC tomorrow? Maybe it's the slow skating team from the first couple weeks or perhaps it's the team that has won 3 in a row.... For that matter, which Blackhawks squad will meet them there? A team that can't figure out the chemistry on the Athansiou - Domi - Kane line or the one that wins with special teams and bottom 6 grit?
Typically you can throw out the records when these two rivals meet. It's always a fun game to attend as their is no love lost between the two organizations. I'm going to watch this matchup tonight:
Net front forwards in front of Binnington (assuming he gets the start, he may not after all) as he usually gets upset about aggressive opponents in or around his crease. Chicago will have to focus in on running shots from their blueliners with forwards looking for re-directions. That has always been the way to score on the Blues these recent years.
I will offer a prediction for this matchup as I see teams heading in different directions: Blues 4 and Blackhawks 2. I believe the Blues are just coming into their own as a playoff contender (like most predicted) and have the skill on the wings to beat Chicago with puck handling and overall ability. The Hawks will likely get a re-direction goal as well as a gritty goal sometime late into the matchup.
Chicago currently sits in 23rd position in the NHL for point percentage (11th pick odds) and will travel to Boston (Saturday the 19th) next to take on the league leading Bruins (28pts in 16 games).