St. Louis – The Chicago Blackhawks (23-11-5), and the St. Louis Blues (19-13-5) will take their long running rivalry outdoors on Monday afternoon in the ninth annual NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Blackhawks are playing in their third Winter Classic game this year, the most by any team in the NHL, while the host Blues will make their first appearance in the annual outdoor game. The Blackhawks are 0-2 in the Winter Classic, dropping games to the Detroit Red Wings in 2009, and the Washington Capitals in 2015.
The Blackhawks are playing in their fifth outdoor game overall, having also participated in the NHL’s Stadium Series in 2014 and 2016. The Hawks’ defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014 5-1 at Soldier Field in Chicago, and lost to the Minnesota Wild last season by a score of 6-1, giving the Blackhawks an overall record of 1-3 in outdoor contests.
The Blackhawks and Blues are meeting for the fourth time this season, with the Blackhawks holding a 2-1 advantage in the season series to this point, the Blackhawks are looking to rebound from a less than stellar end to the 2016 calendar year, which saw the Hawks’ drop three of their last four games.
The Blackhawks will be without both Marcus Kruger, who was placed on the IR this afternoon and is expected to miss about two to three weeks of action, and Marian Hossa who will miss his fifth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Corey Crawford will be in goal for the Hawks, opposed by Blues goaltender Jake Allen.
Blackhawks Keys to Victory: Create shots on goal, the Hawks’ have taken two of the three contests with the Blues to date this season, in both of the two wins the Blackhawks tallied 30 or more shots on goal, in the loss to the Blues back in October the Blackhawks only managed 19 shots on goal.
The Hawks’ shouldn’t try to get too pretty, just get the puck on Jake Allen early and often, and the Blackhawks should be able to take advantage of Allen who has been either great or bad in the majority of his performances this season. Set the tempo early and force Allen into one of his bad games.
Blackhawks Player to Watch: Artemi Panarin – The Breadman has a pair of goals and three assists against the Blues this season, and is currently the Blackhawks leading scorer. Panarin will need to play a big role in setting the tone for the Blackhawks offense on Monday.
Game Prediction: The Blackhawks, who are no stranger to outdoor games at this point, will send the St. Louis fans home unhappy, as they will pick-up a close 3-2 victory over the Blues on Monday.
Blues Keys to Victory: 1. Active and involved defense – the Nashville game was good evidence of what can go wrong when they stop focusing. Shattenkirk’s expert pass to the opposing team is a small symptom of what appears to be plaguing the team, and it’s very uncharacteristic for this to happen under a Hitch-coached squad
2. Goaltending needs to be sharper. Allen has either looked good or rough, and not surprisingly, his stats ebb and flow with the whims of the defense. He should learn how to steal a game behind this year’s team.
3. Special teams – the Blues have one of the best penalty kills in the league (4th overall at 86%) and a decent enough power play (8th at 21.6%). They need to draw the penalties and play to their strengths.
Blues Player to Watch: Everyone automatically wants to say Vladimir Tarasenko is the guy, but I’ll go with Robby Fabbri here. He’s picking up his pace and he’s third on the team in scoring (11-12-23). He could be a little better defensively, but to be honest, that’s the entire team this year.
Game Prediction: I want the home team to win the Classic this year, obviously, but games between these two teams can be kind of unpredictable and I’m notorious for never being right, so take this with a grain of salt. I’ll go 3-2 Blues. I’m also predicting a night game, because the weather’s probably not going to clear up until the afternoon and they’ll need to fix the ice after the morning rain.
You can the Blackhawks and Blues take their storied rivalry outdoors today at Noon (CT) on NBC (TV) and WGN-720AM (Radio).