Let it never be said that I was ever ungrateful for BJs. Thanks to their efforts last night, beating Detroit 4-2, a regulation or overtime win tonight will clinch the Central Division for the Blues. There is never much trouble in getting revved up for a Chicago game, but any extra motivation is certainly a good thing. The Blackhawks are clinging to 93 points and the 6th seed in the Western conference. They hold a 6-point lead on the 7th and 8th seeds, but nothing is guaranteed for the postseason. They need every point that they can get, which could make them desperate and potentially dangerous. Remember, Anaheim didn't really have anything to play for, either. As long as the Blues keep to their own game, all should end well.
I've tried to keep the gloating down to a minimum, but when it's the BlackHawks, it's sort of a lost cause. I think this just about sums it up.
The Enemy: Boy, does Chicago have problems. Their captain Jonathan Toews has missed 17 games with a concussion. He has began skating, but has not been cleared for contact yet, which probably means he has a little ways to go yet. Also not appearing tonight is their best D-man, Duncan Keith. He's enjoying some time off as a reward for elbowing a Sedin in the head. Goalie Ray Emery has been out with an Upper Body Injury, but could be returning as soon as tonight. A sore spot all year for Chicago has been their Power Play. The good folks at Second City use the term "clown shoes" (frequently). The 'Hawks have converted 15.3% all year, but specifically at home it is at 13.9% - 2nd worse in the league. It's bad. They haven't even registered a Shot On Goal during their last 8 Power Play opportunities (including a minute-plus of 5-on-3).
Despite all of this, the BlackHawks have put up a 6-2-2 record in their last 10 games, and have points in 4 of their last 5. Somehow, they've been getting it done. Overall scoring is led by Marian Hossa (29G/ 45A), and next is the goal scoring leader Patrick Sharp (30G/ 34A). Patrick Kane is right behind with 60 pts. The next two scoring spots are the absentee Toews and Keith. As for goaltending, I would expect Corey Crawford to start; his numbers this year are 2.75 GAA and .900 SV%. If Ray Emery comes back, that stat line would be 2.77 GAA and .900 SV%. Not much difference, either way.
Final Verse: The puck drops tonight at 7:30 St Louis time. The broadcasts are on the usual outlets, FoxSports MW for TV and KMOX 1120 AM for the radio call. The GDT should drop shortly before the puck does. If it seems a little sparse in the GDT tonight, many of us are gathering at a Cousin Hugo's in Maplewood to watch the game. If you want to join us, come on down. We'll be easy to spot - look for the obnoxiously loud group. Until then, this is your pregame warmup. Gather here, warm up the Chicago-hate machine, dust off the Patty Kane jokes, and talk playoff matchups. In the meantime, here's a funny story about Kane and Toews:
Jonathan Toews' story about Patrick Kane (via wwechikka)