For a Blues fan, games against the Blackhawks have to be right up in the top three when it comes to Favorite Things (I assume that Stealing Bluie's Headpiece is also in the Top Three). The games are always hard-hitting well-contested affairs and the interactions between Blues fans and Hawks fans are, for my money, the best of the season. Hawks fans, for the most part, can handle the give-and-take of trash talking and can usually be counted on to avoid the pitfall of Red Wings fans' trash talk which usually devolves into "We won the Cup" and "Stevie Y is the greatest" within a matter of seconds.
Similarly, our game day paper has a Chicago rival known as the Committed Indian. They're the same guys who run the Second City Hockey site and while they love to try to smash us Blues fans down, they also love the back and forth of talking trash. For their game day paper today, they asked me a few questions about our team. Rather than write a pre-game matchup of stats and motivations, we'll just re-print that inetrview here:
Committed Indian: Hey, did you hear we won The Cup last year?
Game Time: You know, I'll answer that with this example. I have trained my nine-year-old son like most hockey fanatic fathers: To be completely irrational when required. To wit: He loves Brett Hull even though he never saw him play. He also hates the Detroit Red Wings even though a bunch of his front-running little dipshit friends love the Wings because, "They're always good." My kid, ask him if Brett Hull ever played for the Red Wings and he'll gladly tell you that No, that never happened.
So, I asked my kid just a minute ago if he heard the the Blackhawks won the Cup last year. Know what he said?
"No they didn't. They didn't award a Cup last year."
Committed Indian: Ok, now to your pointless hockey team. Last year the Blues suffered when all your young players took a step back. Why will they correct that this season?
The young guys were being young guys last year. Far too many stories about them being in the peeler joints until the wee hours, everyone had a photo of themselves with their arm around a bleary-eyed Blues youngster, weird photos of young girls partying in bachelor-pad condos, and on and on. Last year they didn't like the coach, so they stopped playing and buried him. They thought they could "turn it on" whenever they had to and make the playoffs.
This year, all that is over. They realize that the next time they quit on a coach, someone is getting traded out of here. They realized that deciding to play late and eeking into the playoffs is stupid and it doesn't work. Beyond all that, the young guys are realizing that they're now playing for new contracts. They're playing for personal pride - to show the league why they were drafted in the first round - that they are good NHL players.
Plus, they saw Kane hanging out with playboy chicks at the NHL Awards show. That's a pretty good motivator.
Committed Indian: You've been trumping up the T.J. Oshie will score more than Toews this year (and we'll happily take that bet, good sir). What have you noticed about Oshie's game this year that stands out from last year?
(more after the jump)
I've never said that he'll score more than your little Captain Serious. What I have said is that I don't get why Oshie is treated as a median player while Toews is considered a superstar. They both played 76 games last year and while Toews outscored Oshie by 20 points, he didn't crack 70 for the year. Toews is also cited for being a player who makes an impact in other areas, but he had 69 takeaways while Oshie had 61. Toews had 56 hits while Oshie had 149.
My point about the two players is that while Toews is no superstar, Oshie can easily rise above being "just a good player." I think that the two are very similar in that they both can impact games beyond their point totals. But it wouldn't take a big jump for Oshie to equal Toews' impact on the scoresheet as well.
Committed Indian: Explain the Silent Jay McClement for Selke campaign.
The Selke is a trophy awarded to the best defensive forward in the NHL and it is voted on by the professional hockey writers. As we all know, hockey writers can be lazy, as they have with the Selke, giving it to Pavel Datsyuk each of the last three years based mainly on his reputation. Even noted Wing knob-slobberers like Paul Kukla have admitted that Datsyuk didn't really deserve the award the last two years but the hockey writers voted him in because it was easy.
In each of the last two years, Jay McClement has quietly gone about becoming the best defensive forward in the league and hasn't even been recognized as a finalist. He played more shorthanded minutes than any forward last year and he won more defensive zone faceoffs than anyone last year (faceoffs usually taken against opposing team's top scoring units).
It seems silly to campaign for an award so early in the season, but unlike a scoring award or MVP award, the skillset of a defensive forward is based largely on hard work and desire and we have no reason to think that McClement would simply start slacking off or playing a less-determined game.
Vote For Silent Jay; He'd Vote For You.
Committed Indian: Your big acquisition this summer was Jaro Halak from Montreal. Early returns?
The guy is what we've needed in St. Louis for a long time. He's a calm and collected stopper who makes almost every save look routine, even when it's not. More than anything else, this gives the rest of the team confidence. Too often in the past, the Blues have had a goalie that they felt they had to collapse down on and form a human wall to help out. When they play in front of a guy who is going to make the saves he's supposed to make and not give up, for instance, The Chris Mason Soft Goal Of The Game (TM), it allows the forwards to take more chances and the defense to pinch in the offensive zone and rush the puck from the defensive zone more.
Look, all goalies are totally fucking crazy, and Halak is probably batshit nuts too, but at least the guy makes other teams beat him for a win, rather than helping them out at least once a game.
Committed Indian: We know you've been excited about Alex Pietrangelo for a couple years, and he's finally up full time. What about his game gets your tentacles all....whatever tentacles get?
This kid makes my tentacles get all gropy and feely with the ladies. Then, when they get all pissed off, I'm all, "Sorry baby, the tentacles do what they gotta do. You think I can control these things?"
In Pietrangelo's draft class he was taken behind Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian. At the time, a bunch of scouts and other hockey brains said that Pietrangelo was the rawest of the three but had the best long-term potential of the group. That assessment is trending along with what we've seen so far. He was out of his league each of the last two years during his nine-game tryouts with the Blues, but this year he has been strong and confident and creative with the puck.
Take some time and watch the kid play a little tonight and you'll likely see flashes of good things to come for him. You'll also likely see him way down deep in the offensive zone a couple times, signs that he's feeling the confidence to do so and still be able to get back to man his post.
Some of us think he could be better than former first-overall pick Erik Johnson. Unless, of course he gets attacked by a fucking golf cart too (see, I did it for you Sam).
Committed Indian: You know we won the Cup last year, right?
I heard they didn't award a Cup last year.