Hawks tuning up against the Blues
With the NHL playoffs only three weeks away every team still in contention are looking to secure points but more importantly, they are also looking to see how they measure up against good teams. The Blackhawks don’t need to look any further than their own Central Division for these measuring sticks. The St. Louis Blues are currently not only in first in the division but they are also conference leaders and league leaders.
If the Blackhawks want a test they will get a good one Tuesday night at the United Center when they square off against the NHL leading Blues. This game is what hockey is all about. The Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues have been battling since 1967 when the Blues came into the league through expansion. This game will have two divisional rivals that don’t like each other very much, two teams with polar opposite styles of play, two teams with one thing in common. They will both be looking to measure their game based on how they play against each other.
The series is even at 2 apiece in their previous four outings three of which were played in St. Louis. The Blues have a pedestrian road record at 16-14-3 and the Hawks must exploit this. The Hawks will still be without captain Jonathan Toews and Dman Steve Montador so this will take another team performance. The Blackhawks have one thing going for them or maybe it’s 22K things. They have the UC crowd that they can feed off of which can help them raise their intensity and give them jump. The game should have a playoff atmosphere.
Keys to the game
Ø St. Louis takes a lot of penalties. They are among the league leading teams in PIM. The Hawks must take advantage of this and somehow get that power play humming. If they are able to cash in on the power play it will also boost confidence of the team.
Ø Patience will be needed. The Hawks have to wait for their offensive opportunities. The Blues play a boring defensive style of hockey that I’m sure drives the Hawks crazy as they are the total opposite type of team. They need to be mindful of their defensive positioning and watch the turnovers in their zone and the neutral zone. Forwards need to assist with back checking whenever possible.
Ø The Hawks need to get to the Blues’ net and crash the net. Whether it is Halak or Elliott both netminders are stingy. It will take bodies to the net to get anything past either of these goalies.
Ø Speed kills – If the Hawks can move through the neutral zone quickly and gain the Blues zone it could back them up on their heels. The Blues do not have the team speed the Hawks do so keep them chasing. This will require physical play in the Blues zone and tenacious forechecking.
Ø The Hawks will need to move in the offensive zone to find shooting lanes. The Blues love to plug up the middle and block passing lanes so the Hawks will have to move around to find shooting and passing lanes.
Who to look for:
· Look for Andy McDonald who has scored on the Hawks in two of their previous encounters.
· Look for the Bollig to go rounds with one of the Blues
· Don’t be surprised if either Jimmy Hayes or Marcus Kruger or Andrew Shaw have big games tonight and get some dirty goals.
Hawks can be seen on Friday against the Dallas Stars on CSN or WGN Radio 720. Start time is at 7:30 pm CT also checkout the Blackhawks website for road watch venues.
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