St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock recognizes an issue his team always has against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We have a problem when we play them: they just don’t give us the puck,” he said.
No, the Blackhawks are a stingy group that way, considering how well they play with the puck and how much they dictate that style of game. So when the Blues and Blackhawks convene tonight at Scottrade Center, the Blues will once again be trying to get that puck away from their Chicago rival.
The Blackhawks and Blues each have their own style of play. Where the Blackhawks are slick and stylish the Blues are abrasive and physical. Both teams have good defense, both good goaltending. So each side will be concentrating on what works for them, although the Blackhawks say they’ll match the Blues’ physical with physical when necessary.
“Our strength is our speed, but they have skill guys who have speed. Parts of the game are more physical and we step to the occasion and accept the game tempo,” Bryan Bickell said. “We need to stick to our game, and hopefully we can do that.”
The Blues’ biggest problem last year was getting offense to go with that great goaltending (2.62 goals/game). They’re not having that problem in the early going. In two games the Blues have recorded 11 goals, and they’ve spread the scoring wealth around the roster (10 players have combined for those 11 goals).
But again, it comes down to a team playing its game, not falling into the trap of the opponent’s. The Blackhawks did that masterfully last season, dictating so much against the Blues. They’ll need to do the same to continue that success rate.
“I think the best way to play against these guys is to keep it simple, get pucks to the net and crash that net,” Patrick Kane said. “They’ve always played good team defense and have had good goaltending here. It’s not the easiest team to score on, but if you work hard and get them running around a little bit your chances should open up. Hopefully that’s what we can do.”