There's nothing people love more than returning home from a long trip, crawling into their own bed, and sleeping into the next week. Or at least deep in the morning. Sadly, the Hawks won't get this luxury, thanks to national television (why, it's this here NBC!) dictating that this game must start in the a.m. Such is the way of being a premier club in the league, right?
While the road trip is going to be the stuff Hawks fans drink to forget, if not worse, it at least ended in something of a positive fashion. The Hawks won the last two games, both rather easily, while displaying some of the things that had knee-capped them the previous nine. The goaltending improved, as did the penalty kill.
The speed also returned, and the puck possession. Hope they enjoyed it, because those two things are going to be very hard to come by today against the Blues.
There is no stingier squad in the league than St. Louis right now. They lead the league in goals- and shots-against per game. They're one of two teams that give up less than two goals a game, though the encouraging is the Hawks just lit up the other one, New York, for four. Repeating that is not going to be simple.
The Blues, while always having been physically spiky and a real nuisance to the Hawks, have finally added brains to the whole operation. Their defensive structure and concentration have upped considerably since the hiring of Ken Hitchcock as coach. You'll see the Blues today really collapse around their net, making it impossible to get shots through to it or to get bodies there to deal with pucks that might be loose. They'll chase down every loose puck as well.
The Blues have been a real problem for the Hawks over the past few years because they physically beat up the Hawks defense. They just put pucks deep, and try and make splatter art against the end-boards with the bodies in the other jersey they find there. The Hawks haven't dealt with this well, coughing up turnover after turnover with the lack of time they get.
When they have beaten the Blues, and generally when they do it's been by a lopsided score, they've cashed in on the power plays given, because St. Louis still provides more of those than they should. They also didn't get caught up in the posturing, and just took advantage of the space left behind over-aggressive Blues players scrambling for hits. That happens less now that Hitchcock is in charge, but it still happens. But with the Hawks power play in the shape it's in....
The Hawks will have to move the puck quickly out of their zone, because any dwelling will see a Blue-note right on top of them. It also has to be crisp, tape-to-tape. Any misstep and there will be pucks lying where they shouldn't be.
Always a tough game, and now with the Blues getting their first national TV exposure, expect them to be amped. Even if it is the morning.