It’s the St. Louis Blues against the Chicago Blackhawks with the season essentially hanging in the balance. It does not get much bigger than that.
The St. Louis Blues have been rivals with the Chicago Blackhawks for their entire existence, mostly based on proximity. The occasions when both teams have been good have been few and far between. Therefor, most games between the two have not had much significance outside of the rivalry. That changes tonight and Friday.
The games between the two have been so spread out this year that is is astounding. The Blues played Chicago way back in October and then not again until March 18.
Now, they will see each other twice within the span of three days. For the Blues, their postseason lives may hinge on these two games.
Of course, there are scenarios where St. Louis could lose both games to Chicago and still get in. It is best not to rely on such machinations and get all the points you can.
For Chicago, they are in unfamiliar territory. Eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2007-08 and the very first time under Joel Quenneville, Chicago is relegated to the role of spoiler. Their sole purpose, other than seeing what a prospect or two has for next year, is to ruin the Blues’ chances.
With Chicago eliminated, you would figure these games don’t have much significance. Outside of the playoff series the two played in 2015-16, these might be the most significant games the two have played in years, given what the Blues have at stake and Chicago could do to their rival.
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Besides being eliminated from playoff contention, it has just been a rough year overall for Chicago. They got off to a slow start and then lost Corey Crawford relatively early in the season.
Chicago has gone through six goaltenders this year, including Crawford. Things got so bad that Chicago actually had to use their emergency goaltender, Scott Foster.
Chicago, for all their faults, were not mathematically eliminated until late in the season. Their road record probably hurt them the most, 14-20-5, though they are only a game above .500 at the United Center (below .500 if you include OT losses in their loss record).
The Blackhawks are 3-5-2 in their last 10. Their last game, on March 30, was a 5-0 beatdown by Colorado.
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In addition to their goaltending problems, the lack of solid defensive play has been surprising in Chicago. Long time solid defensive workers like Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp are minus-25 and minus-13 respectively.
The regular season meetings between these two have been fairly even over the last couple years. St. Louis has a slight edge going 4-2-1.
The Blues have taken both regular season matchups this year. They won 5-2 in October and squeaked by in OT in March, 5-4.
St. Louis is 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. Unfortunately, they have lost their last three games. If you look at the NHL standings, it says they’ve lost two in a row since OT losses do not count in streaks, but they do to fans.
The Blues and Anaheim Ducks will be using up their game in hand on the rest of the Conference tonight. St. Louis is home to Chicago and Anaheim is at home against Minnesota.
The Blues have some good hot streaks going against their rival:
"– Patrik Berglund has a four-game point streak (four goals, one assist)– Vladimir Tarasenko has 16 points in his last 12 games (11 goals, 5 assists)– Alex Pietrangelo has nine points in his last eight games (four goals, five assists)– Alexander Steen has 11 points in his last 11 games (four goals, seven assists)– Brayden Schenn has four points in his last five games (two goals, two assists)– Jake Allen is 8-4-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .919 save-percentage in his career against Chicago and has allowed two or fewer goals in eight of 13 games."
This is the final home game of the 2017-18 regular season. St. Louis ends with back-to-back road games against Chicago and Colorado. Let’s make Scottrade a loud atmosphere.
Projected Lineup from the team website:
Where To Watch
NBC Sports App, NHL.tv (subscriber fee)
y98, y98.com, Blues app
The puck drops on this one at 7 pm Central Time.
I fully admit I am setting myself up for disappointment if the Blues fail tonight. However, they deserve to feel ashamed if they lose this one.
Chicago still has a ton of talent and goal scorers galore. But this is a game you have to win and this is a team you have to beat.
They are without their captain and playing what is essentially their fourth-string goaltender. If you cannot win under those circumstances, then perhaps the playoffs are not what you deserve.
Yes, the Blues have plenty of injury problems of their own, but that cannot matter right now. We have our top scorers and they are missing one. We have our best goaltenders and they do not. Win.
I think the Blues will do just that, but it will not be comfortable. I see a close game at 2-1.