Blues doomed to repeat same mistakes against Blackhawks

I couldn’t believe it when I saw the tweet come across my timeline. How many times are teams going to make the same mistake?

Now, before I get into why Hitchcock’s theory here is misguided, let’s go back to the 2015 Western Conference Final and an infamous quote from longtime Hawk pest Ryan Kesler.

Not only is Hitchcock’s theory wrong, it was disproven within the last year. Kesler said that the Ducks consistent pounding of the Hawks would ultimately wear them down. It didn’t then, it won’t now, and it won’t in the future. You don’t beat the Hawks by outhitting them. Every team outhits the Hawks in a game. You beat the Hawks by beating them at their own game. That is, you own the puck better than they do.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville gets it.

(Now just get Mashinter out of the damn lineup.)

This is not to totally discount the physical aspects of hockey. In fact, the Blues can be very good when playing a physical style. But it’s about the quality of the hits, not the quantity. The Blues have several players with a combination of size and skill that can be a nightmare on the forecheck for any defense corps, especially one that’s had its struggles like the Hawks. If the Blues committed to using their physicality to separate Hawks D-men from the pucks and then turn that into scoring chances, they very well could win this series.

But Game 1 indicated that’s not part of their gameplan. No, St. Louis elected to allow the Hawks a clean exit out of their zone most of the time, and attempted to thwart any of their attacks in the neutral zone. It resulted in a Game 1 win, but it’s never worked for the Blues over the course of a 7-game series. It’s like winning a battle but losing the war.

Every team that has tried to sit back and defend the Hawks has ultimately fallen. Eventually, the Hawks find a way to crack the defensive wall. Eventually, the Hawks chances start finding their way into the net. Do you really think the Hawks are going to continue to remain scoreless when they nearly double up the Blues in shots (35-18), like they did last night? Do you really think Brian Elliot, he of the career sub-.900 career postseason save percentage, is going to withstand all of those chances without cracking? Do you really think the Blues have the defensive depth to sit back and wait for the Hawks?

It won’t take long to figure out what the Blues gameplan is in Game 2 on Friday night. Watch what happens whenever Chicago possesses the puck in its own end. If the Hawks defensemen are able to retrieve the puck without a St. Louis forward looking to blast him into the boards, then Hitchcock again has his team sitting back to wait for the Hawks like he did in Game 1.

And I hope he does that. Because that means Game 3 will start with a 1-1 series split.



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