Chicago Blackhawks: Home Opener Against Blues Will Offer Stiff Test
It will be a game of gritty play, numerous checks around the boards, tight defensive plays, pretty goals and superb goaltending.
Both teams are expected to fight for the Central Division Crown, and quite possibly, control of the Western Conference.
The Blackhawks' home opener will be the first real test for this roster—Los Angeles and Phoenix are good, but the Blues are a deep team down the middle and have started the season 2-0. Both of the St Louis' wins came against Central Division teams—the first was a 6-0 blowout of the Detroit Red Wings and the second came in a shootout against the Nashville Predators.
The Blues are also a hated rival, a little extra motivation from both sides to mark this game on their schedules and come in with a feisty attitude.
But the resurgence of the Blues cannot be ignored by anyone in the Central Division.
Coach Ken Hitchcock turned this team around last year, setting in defensive plays that has them trending upward.
It doesn't hurt that they have two quality goaltenders in Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott—Halak already pitching a shutout in his first game against the Detroit Red Wings this season.
The real test for the Blackhawks will be winning faceoffs against some of their bigger guys, as well as getting past their stellar defense and equally great goaltending.
The 'Hawks went 4-2 against the Blues last season, with two of those wins coming in the shootout. Regardless of this success, the Blues are not a team to take lightly.
Corey Crawford will have to control his rebounds, as Blues' players will be clogging the crease for the pickup and the screen. It will also help if some of the bigger guys clear out the front of the net for Crawford, helping him to see the puck before it gets to his pads.
Shutting down David Backes and David Perron will be a test for Jonathan Toews and Dave Bolland all night. These battles may very well dictate the pace of the game and which team possesses the puck.
Which team will win the Central Division?
Duncan Keith will also have to do a better job of clearing the puck from his own defensive zone to avoid multiple scoring chances.
It may even help to have Brandon Bollig throw down the gloves and spark a little energy into the team if they start to slump.
With a few nice plays and great goaltending from Crawford, look for the Blackhawks to squeak out a slim one-goal victory over the Blues tonight.
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