Tonight the Blackhawks get their fourth and final regular-season shot at the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks are currently 0-1-2 against the Blues and trail them by eight points in the Central Division with one less game to play. In plain English the Blackhawks would like to save face on national television against their staunchest opponent this season.
Tonight is considered “Rivalry Night” in the NHL and for the most part it’s turning into the marquee game of the week for NBC to showcase top teams clashing for divisional prominence. The problem with this matchup is that while it’s often been on Wednesday night’s rivalry schedule for much of the season, the clash has been underwhelming as the Blackhawks can’t seem to win. St. Louis is running away with the division, and while for most of the year the Hawks have been the frontrunners, they’ve been playing some bad hockey over a good stretch. Last night was a perfect example as they rushed out to a 2-0 lead in Philly, but then lost inevitably in overtime.
Over the last ten-game stretch the Hawks are again sub-five-hundred with most of the losses coming within the sixty-minute regulation. Over that same period the Blues are 8-1-1 and really starting to distance themselves from not only the Central but the rest of the conference. St. Louis would be clear favorites for the President’s Trophy, but Boston has been white hot rattling off ten in a row to make home-ice advantage in the finals a race worth watching.
The writing on the wall is that the Hawks can repeat as Stanley Cup champs, but right now we’re seeing the wear and tear of a skilled team that’s starting to tire a lot. This isn’t the best time to playing your worst hockey of the season as the teams who’re making the playoff push play their best. But before I panic too soon I am reminded that the Hawks had the same record in 2010 after Vancouver Olympic break and they went on to win the Cup that year in Philadelphia.
If the Hawks can salvage the final two head-to-head points between the two clubs, then maybe it’ll give them some confidence going forward. Puck Drop is at 7.