Forget the impossible playoff race and this theme of the Blues that if they win every game out, they've done what they can and let the other teams sort it out crap. That doesn't matter tonight. This game right here, right now is about standing up on home ice and saying the Hawks can't come into the building and have their way. It's about showing the weakness on the Hawks and how they're not as good as they thought they were.
If you're a Blackhawks fan, you might think this is a blessing. Two seasons ago about this point in the season when it was clear the Blues weren't going anywhere and they were playing the Red Wings, I made the pronouncement that come playoff time, Detroit was fucked because of goaltending. At the time, Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood were splitting time and neither was playing very well. There were big questions as the postseason approached. And early in the first round, Hasek struggled. Spit the bit. Gave up the ghost. Sucked. And Osgood came in and led the Wings to a Stanley Cup championship posting one of the best goaltending performances of the last 20 years. Boy did I feel like the asshole saying the Wings have no chance.
The Hawks have no chance to win the Stanley Cup this season. Exhibit A: Cristobal Huet's save percentage. Chicago's big free agent signee two summers ago has stopped 89.5 percent of the shots he's faced this season, 42nd best in the 30-team NHL. His goals-against average is still a tidy 2.50, 13th in the league. What that says is the Hawks do a good job of cutting down the opposition's chances and keeping shots allowed low. In fact, Chicago is first in the NHL allowing 24.8 a game, significantly less than New Jersey's 27.3 a game, second best in the league. He does have four shutouts. To illustrate the faith the Hawks have in Huet, 20 other goaltenders have played more minutes this season. In his last three games, Huet has two straight losses and a no decision. Oops.
Exhibit B: Antti Niemi has played in 34 career NHL games and exactly zero Stanley Cup playoff games. That's a recipe for success! Only 21 other goaltenders this season have better save percentages. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
The Hawks have a really solid defensive core...when they're not getting knocked the fuck out by cheap shots to the head. And the Hawks have some depth up front...when Dustin Byfuglien isn't on the ice. Five players on Chicago have more than 20 goals this season. Four players have more than 50 points. The success for the Hawks this playoffs will be totally based on how well the Hawks score and their ability to keep offensive chances to a minimum for the other team. I'm sure it could end well. And when I say "well," I mean with binge drinking on the upswing and talk in Chicago turning slowly to the loser Cubs by the end of April.