Remember my asshole friend Jim Kress, who writes about Those Fuckers Up North? Once again, we asked each other questions heading into the 2nd Blues-Blackhawks game of the season. You can check out my answers on his site, City on the Take, right here.
SLGT: Since last we met the Hawks have been climbing up the division standings, up to 31 points which is good for 3rd behind the Blues and the upstart Predators. You guys have won 6 of the last 7 and 8 of the last 10. Who has been leading the resurgence by making the proper blood sacrifices to Cthulu?
CotT: The usual suspects have been leading the way for the Blackhawks (Toews, Kane, Corey Crawford), but Kris Versteeg has been a huge part in Chicago's recent success. I'll be the first to admit I was not a fan of Versteeg last year, and wanted him gone at the beginning of this year. But since he returned from injury, he's been fantastic for the Blackhawks. He's currently rocking a 56.03% Corsi% while tallying 7 goals and 11 assists through 20 games. Versteeg with Kane and Richards has started to cement themselves on the 2nd line and they've had great success at getting the puck passed the net minder. Of course cementing a line has been a large reason why the Hawks didn't have early success. Q with his patented "line scrambler" made it tough for players to create chemistry, and the players voiced their disgruntled opinions early about the lack of consistency.
SLGT: Brad Richards sounded like he had been a disappointment/misused by Q last time, but I've heard through the grapevine that a line where he centers Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane has been in a bit of a groove. How productive have they been, and how long until Q becomes angered by their insolence and splits them up out of unadulterated spite?
CotT: As I just mentioned in my last answer Versteeg, Kane and Richards have had some rather splendid success together. Although with the type of success they are having, it'll be hard to see Q mixing up that line anytime soon. It took him nearly 20 games of Andrew Shaw turning the puck over in the defensive zone to get him off of the same line as Kane. With Sharp returning to the lineup soon I think Brandon Saad will drop down to the 3rd line. As far as the PB & K line success, well in the last 7 games Versteeg has 7 points (1G 6A), Kane has had 7 points (4G 3A) and Richards has also had 7 points (2G 5A).
SLGT: The Hawks power play has somehow been a target of great ire the past few years among Chicago fans, despite the unseemly amount of talent up front. Over the past 6 game road trip, they went 6/26 on the mad advantage, a frustrating total, yet a respectable 23%. How spoiled have you guys become that scoring almost once in every 4 power plays is considered bad?
CotT: The reason Hawks fans get upset with Power Play struggles has been a mixture of the two worlds. Chicago does in fact have insane talent on their team and they have struggled heavily on the PP for the last half decade. This year, however, it's hard to be upset with the results, despite the luck. The Blackhawks are shooting at an incredibly low percentage on the year (8.19% 23rd in the league). Raise the SH% to the top 5 in the league (10%+) and the Blackhawks might only have two losses on the season. The Blackhawks have only lost twice this year by a margin of more than 1 goal. 4-1 against Detroit and 4-1 against Vancouver, both on the road.
SLGT: Tonight is the last time the Blues & Hawks will face off before they play the Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals in D.C. Aren't you guys tired of outdoor games by now? Surely it's just become a burden for you at this point, right? Perhaps you may need another, more willing team that has never had any games outside home or away to tag in for you?
CotT: You and I have had discussions about this in the past. I do find it hard to believe that the Blues haven't played in an outdoor game yet. They have been a dominant team in the NHL for the last 3-4 years. Although the problem with St. Louis lies where their Winter Classic might be played, in the home of the Cardinals. St. Louis is without a doubt a baseball heavy market (deservedly so), and the fan base that follows the Blues hasn't shown the consistent type of numbers I'm sure selection committees like to see. I don't know, I'm just trying to make you guys feel better. If there's a team you should be mad about getting outdoor games it's Pittsburgh.
SLGT: And finally, any predictions for tonight? Which will we see more, Coach Q grabbing his crouch or NBCSN replaying the David Backes-Jonathan Toews fight that's almost 5 years old at this point? And how many more goals will Vladimir Tarasenko score than the Hawks as a team?
CotT: Holy balls Tarasenko is good. Like capital G Good! It will have to be him and the other members of the "STL" line that do all the scoring for St. Louis though. So yes, if St. Louis wins it will be because of Tarasenko with his fifteenth hat-trick on the season. I'm putting a higher wager on NBCSN going to Oshie's Sochi shootout performance video to keep trying to prove to everyone he's still a good player, despite his horrific start to 2014.
Be sure to check out City on the Take for all the news about Northwestern's lack of a bowl game, the Cubs' free agent overpayments, and an NFL team that's actually worse than ours.