There are certain signs showing your team has played the St. Louis Blues recently. They can include black-and-blue marks, welts, probably a few scabs and an additional ice pack or two.
Hey, it’s just par for the hit-filled course, and the Chicago Blackhawks are always ready for it.
“The play a hard game, they’re a physical team,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You have to be ready to play a hard game, have to be willing to go anywhere around the rink that gives us any advantage. And we can’t be deterred in any part of our game at all.”
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Expecting non-physical games against the Blues is like expecting a toddler to come out of his/her first spaghetti meal stain-free: it’s not going to happen. So the Blackhawks are ready to take it, and perhaps dish out some themselves when they face the Blues in their first-round series beginning on Thursday.
The Blackhawks will be a full roster again, as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane return from their respective injuries. For those two, the hits are always coming, especially against St. Louis. Kane doesn’t expect it to be any different this time.
“That’s the way they’ve always been. They’ve always tried to play physical on the skilled players, even on the other teams,” said Kane, whose last game was March 19 against the Blues. “Even when I watch other teams around the league too, that’s the way they play. It seems like they’ve been successful at it. I think the important thing is to try not to get caught up in that and play the right way.”
For those who are looking for the Blackhawks to match or outhit the Blues, you’re apparently fresh to the party. That’s not going to happen either. Sure, the Blackhawks can dole out some and defend each other against the Blues’ onslaught – they did that on March 19, with Bryan Bickell noticeably part of the hits. But the Blackhawks aren’t going to change their playing style now.
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“I think the most important thing is to try to play our game and try not to be anyone else,” Kane said. “We’re not going to try to go up against them and try to play like the St. Louis Blues or the L.A. Kings. That’s not the way we play around here. Obviously we want to be physical when we get a chance, especially on their top guys. If we meet it, great, but the most important thing is to try and score more goals than them.”
Yes, the Blues know what to expect from St. Louis. They’re not looking too long at that six-game losing streak the Blues had, or the injury issues that certainly didn’t help that late regular-season record. No, the Blackhawks are focused on facing a strong, physical group, because that’s what they’re going to get.
“They’re a team that loves to play physical against us and we have to expect that. There’s no reason why we can’t return that a little as well,” Toews said. “We’ll be ready to bring that type of effort and it’s going to be tough game and atmosphere to be a part of starting in St. Louis. We’ll be ready for it, but there’s no feeling of us facing a team that’s not going to give us their best. It’s going to take our best to beat them.”