Standings: Blues (17-9-3), Rangers (17-7-4)
Leading Scorer: Alexander Steen (9-10-19)
Goaltender: Brian Elliott (15 GP, 1.45 GAA, .947 SV%)
Artem Anisimov-Derek Stepan-Marian Gaborik
Ruslan Fedotenko-Brad Richards-Ryan Callahan
Carl Hagelin-Brian Boyle-John Mitchell
Brandon Dubinsky-Erik Christensen-Brandon Prust
Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi
Michael Del Zotto-Steve Eminger
Jeff Woywitka-Anton Stralman
Henrik Lundqvist gets the start.
Scratches/Injuries: Marc Staal (concussion symptoms), Mike Rupp (knee), Wojtek Wolski (groin), Mike Sauer (concussion), Sean Avery (healthy), Tim Erixon (healthy)
The Blues are just raking right now and the move to hire Hitchcock seems to be paying off. They are coming off a three-game winning streak and are 11-2-3 in their last 16 games. They are getting it done because of their overall commitment to team defense, which shouldn’t surprise anyone as Hitchcock has long been known for his neutral zone traps.
As a result, St. Louis has allowed the second-fewest goals per game (2.03) and the fewest shots per game (26.2). Beating them at even strength is going to be very difficult if we can’t get our forecheck going. Winning those three-on-three battles down low will be crucial. The Blues’ Achilles Heel is their special teams. They are dead last in the league in power play conversions and are ranked 21st on the PK.
Tactics aside, St. Louis is constructed in a similar fashion to the Rangers. They have a real young blueline being led by Alex Pietrangelo, a steady two-way defenseman, the offensive-minded Kevin Shattenkirk (from New Rochelle) and Kris Russel , but they play a lot bigger up front with David Backes (6’3 225 lbs), Jason Arnott (6’5 220 lbs), and Chris Stewart (6’2 230 lbs). This should be a great match up from head to toe.
Side note, in all my years in pro-sports I don’t know if I have found a friendlier or more informed fan base than St. Louis sports fans. They know their sh…stuff and I wish them well. Shame about Albert Pujols.
Crazy Thought: JD replaces Joe in the booth.
Opponent’s Blog: Blue Not Zone
Game time tonight is 8pm on MSG, AM1050 and XM214.