Scott Darling is the Hawks’ goalie of choice tonight, but don’t think that means it’ll be an easy victory for the Blues. He’s been excellent this season, especially in relief of the injured Corey Crawford. Darling’s gone 8-2-2 with a 2.18 GAA and a .928 save percentage this season. The Blackhawks are the best team in the Western Conference right now and they haven’t skipped a beat - and a good portion of that is because of Darling.
The Hawks have three straight wins and points in their last five games. The Blues’ home streak is impressive, too. They’re 13-1-3 at Scottrade with points in their last 14 home games.
One of the games where they skated away with just a point was a 2-1 loss to the Hawks on November 9th. That was during the Blues’ long goal scoring malaise; they’ve since snapped out of that rut. Their last home game Thursday night saw them put five goals up on the New Jersey Devils and Cory Schneider.
Unfortunately, the Blues’ tough schedule is catching up with them. They’re pooped:
“And we ended up with four guys on the ice,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “That just tells you the energy level. We've played a lot of hockey. With this condensed schedule (thus far), we get one of the longest breaks in the National Hockey League for Christmas, but until then, we're either in a five (games) in eight (days) or four-in-six (stretch). When you're in those, you can't dwell on the negative — you just have to move your team forward as quickly as possible. That's what today was. …
“It's not what coaches like. We'd like to be able to go into more detail, but there just isn't the energy. We need to pour it all into the games.”
A lack of energy isn’t necessarily a lack of will. The Blues seem to bring a high compete level against the Blackhawks, especially at home. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville recognizes this:
“Every time we play them, it’s got some meaning as far as the standings go and how you fare. We’ve got a lot of respect for St. Louis. They’ve got a lot of purpose to how they play and they play the right way. It will be a real positive to try to finish off (the road trip) on a good note, but we know we’ll have our hands full.”
Patrick Kane has gone nine games without a goal. Hopefully the Blues can continue to play the right way at home and make that drought last a little while longer.