Hawks 4 Blues 3 in a shootout and in what most would call a playoff type of game. The Blackhawks continue to step up in big games against solid opponents and get the job done. When looking back on the season, the Hawks have beaten the NHL's elite. As of late, they have been adjusting their perimeter, non-physical style to a more nuts and bolts style of hockey. Last night, they beat arguably the best team in the NHL in the St. Louis Blues. I myself have been critical of the Blues and the hype. Don't get me wrong, the St. Louis Blues are a fantastic hockey team and have been rolling since the hiring of Ken Hitchcock and the firing of Davis Payne. They play with a real grit and toughness style and solid defensive responsibility that we have seen Hitch's teams have success with in the past.
Here's my thoughts. They have depth up and down the line-up especially on the back end. They have the best goalie duo in the NHL. But when it comes down to the playoffs and the way the Blues play, they are very beatable. Why? The reason is, when a team plays one another in a seven game series a level of familiarity forms. They know their is not a player that can take over a game on St. Louis. The Blues play a conservative style that thrives on the other teams turnovers and poor puck management. Last night is a perfect example. The Hawks were careless with the puck and it ended up in their net three times in the first period. With the score 3-1 and Jaroslav Halak playing as well as he is, any follower of the NHL would sigh and say "this game is over." The Hawks didn't do that. Instead, they played the same game and system as St. Louis and shoved it right back in the visitors face rallying to get the win in a shootout.
My point is this. With a small adjustment and a combination of skill and grit, the St. Louis Blues become very beatable. Teams like Vancouver, Detroit and even the Hawks and Preds can play this style. The Blues lack the skill that these other Western Conference elites have. Backes, Oshie, Perron, Mcdonald, etc. all are skilled players, but they are not super stars with the skill set to take over a game. Halak can only stand on his head so much. But with the boring tight defensive game Hitchcock coaches, it limits the skill and ability of some of the talents on the team.
Last night was a game the hawks should watch over and over to remind them of the successful style to play night in and night out. Last nights victory was a recipe that can be used for a deep playoff run. The hawks are every bit as capable of playing this style as the Blues are, the only difference is one thing: star power. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa can change the game on a dime. This is something no one on the Blues has the ability to do, except for Halak. Last time I checked Halak can't score from 200 feet away.
Thanks for reading.