St. Louis Blues
Is there a bigger game against the Hawks than this one?
The Blues are fighting for their playoff lives and the Hawks are the best home team in the NHL. The Hawks are 21-5-1 at the United Center. The Blues are seven points behind the 8th place Red Wings. How big that Columbus loss starting to look?
BJ Crombeen did not travel to Chicago and will not play. Cam Janssen will dress in his place. Carlo Colaiacovo returns to replace Daryl Sydor. DJ King and Sydor are the healthy scratches.
The Lines/Pairings should be:
Chris Mason is expected in net.
What a game, the Blues had to have it and the desperation was there. Flash backs to a year ago anyone?
This really was an open, fast game. It’s amazing the speed and pace that Chicago can push at you in waves. They might be the best transition team since the Red Wings in 2007-08. They used that ability to really stick it to the Blues in the first, jumping on multiple odd man chances. It’s hard not to get stuck watching that team in utter amazement. They have 5 men constantly in motion ready to take a pass on the angle while generating speed north. The Blues were able to get sustained pressure in the Hawks zone a few times, but nothing really substantive. Shots were 9-3 Hawks after one period of play, it seemed like more like 20-5.
Sadly, Patrick Kane opens the scoring in the first with a nifty back hand goal on a backpedaling Mason. Kane (and Sidney Crosby) are just on another level with rarely used backhand shot.
I was impressed by the Blues’ ability to not panic, repeatedly at least. I thought the team in general did a good job of getting solid second efforts on a play. Alex Steen continues to be the team leader in that department. TJ Oshie a close second. The Blues did get caught chasing multiple times, but it’s really hard not to against the elite teams. When the Blues had chances, they did take the body. To the point that Hawks Captain Jonathan Toews decided to complain to the refs after a series of physical plays against him. I love the battles between the Jackman-Polak pair and the Kane-Toews line.
The second period is proof that hard work pays off. The Blues had a foothold in to the game even though they entered the period down 1-0. They were matching the speed (to the best of their ability) and intensity level. Hard work paid off first when a streaking Paul Kariya took advantage of a Duncan Keith misque. Kariya took the puck at full speed and stopped on a dime behind the net. A quick turn and pass to Backes and its 1-1. Thanks to a dumb penalty by Ben Eager (Not the last lazy offensive zone hook), the Blues went back on the power play. This time the power play wasn;t as lazy and produced a goal. Great work by Oshie to sell the shot from the point leads to a quick pass to Backes on the left wing. One timer off some Hawk shin guards through Cristobal Huet and its 2-1. Backes now has his 7th career multi-goal game. The Blues were not done. Less than a minute later Roman Polak enters the zone and makes a great move to get open for a shot in the high slot. Shot goes towards Jay McClement. He puts the tip in goal in to put the Blues up 3-1. With the tiger by the tail, can the Blues hang on?
Coming in to the third everyone knows the Hawks are coming 110% at you. Blues fans are thinking “In Chicago, against the second best team in the West, late lead = blown game”. I would be lying if I said it didn’t creep in to my head, especially after the comical defensive effort that lead to the Hossa SHG that made it 3-2. I was surprised to see the Blues stick to their game and were able to match the Hawks enough to maintain the 3-2 lead. They countered when they could and Mason came up big.
- Chris Mason was solid, stopping 32 of 34 shots.
- David Backes contributed very solid play red line to red line and scored twice.
- The Blues were only a Minus-3 in the Faceoff category. The Blues won 26 as the Hawks won 29.
- The Backes Line has really solidified itself as the Blues #1 Line.
- Alex Steen continues to shine in a wonderful all around game. He is a great first man in on the forecheck, back checks hard and has a good shot when he can get it off.
- The Jackman-Polak pair combined for 1 Assist, 2 Hits, an EVEN rating in 43+ minutes of combined play. Polak also set up the game winning goal by McClement.
- Patrik Berglund won 6 of 9 faceoffs.
- Eric Brewer and Erik Johnson combined for 5 of the Blues 9 Blocked Shots.
- Blues were out shot 34 to 19. Yes, Chicago is an amazing team that controls the game, but 19 shots will not cut it against San Jose tomorrow.
- As good as Backes was (which he really, really was), he lost 10 of 13 faceoffs.
- The Blues gave up more odd man rushes than a human has fingers and toes.
- When was the last time the Blues failed to block at least 10 shots on goal? They had 9 in this game.
- Brad Boyes cannot hit the broad side of a barn right now. Missed a golden opportunity in the waning seconds of the 1st period. Shot never got close to the net.
Post Game Questions
- How effective is the McDonald-Tkachuk-Boyes line? Not effective enough. Is it time to put McDonald with Berglund and Steen or Perron as the “second line”?
- What is the ceiling to Roman Polak’s play? The kid keeps showing more and more each game. Is it time to give him some consideration for power play minutes?
- Did this game show the glaring weakness of the Blues at the NHL level, the blue line? Its amazing to see what Chicago has done with 5 guys who are offensively and defensively capable players.
- Is Chris Mason coming back to his Spring 2009 form?
- Will David Perron develop past having only one or two impact players in the offensive zone and that’s it each night?
- Does Brad Boyes have any trade value right now or is it too low to warrant dealing him?
- If Kariya keeps playing well and raising his trade value, is it inevitable that he is moved?
- Does this team need Colaiacovo to win?
Next up for the Blues is San Jose Thursday night down at Scottrade. The Sharks are here waiting for a tired and travel weary (yeah I know its a short flight, but its still taxing the day after playing), can the Blues respond better in a back to back scenario than they did in Edmonton? We shall see…in HD.