Keys To First Round Game 4: Blues Vs Blackhawks

Corey Crawford for once not giving up a rebound. - Jonathan Daniel

The St. Louis Blues have a chance to take 3-1 lead over the Blackhawks.

If the Blues stay out of the penalty box tonight, they will win.

(QUICK EDITOR'S NOTE: Hi. I'm the dude that runs the St. Louis Game Time paper/program that we sell outside Blues games. It's 24 pages of stats, analysis, opinions and jokes. Everybody reads it. If you want to buy  last Saturday's issue, you can for just $2. And we're going to try and start selling electronically on game days starting Friday. So come back and try us out if you aren't going to the game.)

Of course it helps if they get traffic in front of the net because Corey Crawford is giving up rebounds like it's Halloween and the Blues are trick or treating as goal-scorers.

Emotions are still going to be running high from Seabrookgate. On Monday the Blues did a fairly good job of not gooning it up and trying to seek revenge in a loud and public manor (Steve Ott's big hit on Duncan Keith not withstanding even though I think it was legal). But now there's the added emotion from a possible David Backes return. No, we don't know if Ken Hitchcock is just playing games or if he's serious about putting the captain back on the ice. But if he's out there and any Hawk so much as breaths on him wrong, and there's the possibility of a line brawl.

Wouldn't it be easier if the NHL just settled old scores between teams with a mascot fight. Cage match. Full costume. No props. Two furry cartoonishly-sized persons with or without pants enter, one rides out on a four-wheeler.

Few things to watch, in my humble opinion. First is how comfortable Ryan Miller looks in net early and how smoothly he handles the puck. He's like a starting pitcher in these playoffs in that the Hawks have touched him early for goals more often and he's settled in and cruised as the game has gone on. And if you mention Saturday, I'll say it's an outlier of a ridiculously small sample size.

The personnel on the power play needs to be more skilled. Granted, Brenden Morrow probably isn't going to play, so he won't be out there. But that might mean Steve Ott is if Backes doesn't dress. And the game plan of giving the puck to Vladimir Sobotka to just skate around and try to make something happen with the man advantage is a poor plan.

The Hawks will be playing for their playoff lives. They know coming back to St. Louis down 3-1 would be a huge mountain to climb. And the Sherpas are walking off the mountain because of an avalanche. Google it.

The Blues need to handle that Blackhawk forecheck and the emotion of playing on Chicago ice. It's going to be loud, like a prison riot, which would make thousands of those ex-con Chicago fans feel right at home. The pressure will be on the Blues in their own end. It's going to be loud and they're going to have little time or space to make decisions or plays on the puck.

The Blues have a helluva chance to take a commanding lead in this series. Crawford is human. He'll show it. Miller still has a dominating performance in him. Each game in this series has swung on one goal. Tonight probably won't be any different.

No matter what, I think most Blues fans can agree we can't wait. And we hope Backes isn't risking further injury if he does indeed play.

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