Puck drop is at 8:42.
Brace yourselves for a long night.
The Blues are fully healthy for the first time this season, which should be enough to give fans hope. Factor in the lines being familiar (to start the game, of course) in front of a goaltender who has been playing lights out, and the Blues seem set. They outshone the Blackhawks in the regular season in nearly every statistical category, but their regular season record shows that the two teams, when pitted against each other, tend to play close and tough. Stats only take you so far.
Key tonight for a Blues' victory is coverage - as in defend against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin, and Marian Hossa. Keep puck possession, and limit these guys' chances, and perhaps the game doesn't stretch too far into Thursday AM (or end too soon tonight).
The Hawks are vulnerable, going 6-10-4 against the Central Division this year. That should not encourage complacency from anyone wearing the Blue Note. As we have seen repeatedly, there are the "regular season Blackhawks" and then there are the "playoff Blackhawks." Their team is only missing Andrew Ladd tonight, thanks to his wife's very early labor. It isn't a stretch of the imagination to see them flipping that switch and going into high gear, and the Blues will need to counter with more than Vladimir Tarasenko. He had five goals against the Hawks this season, and 40 overall. He also has amounted for a majority of the Blues' offense the past two postseasons. The scoring needs to be much more balanced around him; if these lines continue to click (and let's admit it, there's no reason for them not to), the secondary scoring should be enough to disable the still-rusty from injury Corey Crawford.
Tonight's game, and this entire series, boils down to minimizing errors and capitalizing on the other team's. That holds just as true for the Blackhawks as it does for the Blues. If the Blues play smart hockey and don't let defensive lapses happen, they should be fine. Capitalize on the Hawks' weaknesses, attack early, and for the love of God, play a full 60 minutes.
Hopefully 60 is all that it will take.