The Chicago Blackhawks take on the St. Louis Blues on January 2nd at Noon CST in the highly anticipated annual NHL Winter Classic. Both teams look to improve their games as recent struggles have both clubs searching for consistency. With the weather still unclear for puck drop, this game is sure to be a memorable one. Below are my keys to success for each team.
- Play Fast, Play Smart – The Blackhawks know they can outskate the Blues if they play their game the right way. With the dominant play of the Kane-Anisimov-Panarin line keeping top Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo busy, it will up to guys like Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman, and Richard Panik to use their speed to create scoring chances on the weaker blue line pairings of St. Louis. The Blackhawks also need to stay out of the penalty box to avoid giving any additional chances to an already high-powered Blues team, led by elite sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.
- Get Toews Going – Jonathan Toews is an established threat in outdoor hockey, coming into Monday’s game with 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 career outdoor games. The Blackhawks need to get the puck to Toews early and often, especially because he has struggled to put pucks in the net as of late.
- Shoot, Shoot, Shoot – It’s hard to argue that any team has more firepower from the blue line than St. Louis. Look for Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk, Parayko, and Bouwmeester to fire a healthy number of shots at Corey Crawford, especially during power play opportunities. The Blackhawks will try to avoid losing sight of Vladimir Tarasenko, who seems to always light the lamp against them. Forwards Robby Fabbri, Jori Lehtera, and Dmitrij Jaskin will surely be in on the mix as well.
- Rough ‘Em Up – The Blues love to rough the Hawks up as often as they can, mainly because it does take Chicago off of their game when done correctly. Checking stats will undoubtedly be heavily in St. Louis’ favor, and Chicago should be ready to see plenty of Ryan Reaves throughout the game. If the Blues use their physical play to frustrate the Blackhawks, they may end up with an extra power play or two as a result. If St. Louis cannot control their emotions and take costly penalties, the Blackhawks power play will surely make them pay.
Crawford (13-7-3, .928 SV%, 2.28 GAA)
Allen (16-9-3, .903 SV%, 2.67 GAA)
Prediction: STL–3 CHI-2 OT