Photo: Associated Press

Back on December 3rd, the Blackhawks got 4 goals past St. Louis netminder Brian Elliot. The next time he let 4 goals get past him in one game was February 22nd.

Now: want to know the bad news? He’s not the best goaltender playing for the Blues right now. Jaroslav Halak hasn’t let more than 2 goals get past him since February 9th. He’s 6-1-0 in his last 7 starts, with a 1.40 GAA and .949 save percentage in that stretch.

Awww, damnit. The Blackhawks get a win streak going, and what do you know? Another hot goaltender. Must we go through this EVERY BLOODY TIME?!?

So it should come as a surprise to nobody that the Blues have the lowest goals-against in the league right now, standing at 1.9 per game. They have ridden (rid? rode? rodden? I hate grammar…) these hot goaltenders to the 2nd place slot in the Western Conference, overtaking Detroit (*spitting noise*) this past weekend (thanks to our victory at the Joe) for first place in the Central Division.

Offense is middling, but when you only need 3 goals a game to get the win, why focus on scoring? Nobody on the Blues has crested the 20-goal mark as yet — Chicago has 3 players over 25. Leaders in that category are David Backes, Jason “Grandpa” Arnott, and T.J. Oshie, who is on a pace for a career year and currently leading the Blues in points.

St. Louis is 7-3-0 in their last 10, and are turning up the juice heading into the playoffs. This team has bought into Head Coach Ken Hitchcock’s defensive system 100%, and they’ll live or die by it. It’s going to be up to the Blackhawks to tear it apart.

The Blackhawks showed they could play defense too, holding the Red Wings to just 1 goal during their win on Sunday afternoon. It’s going to be important to keep that defensive momentum going, making sure all the forwards are doing their jobs in the neutral zone, as we approach the end of the regular season. Continuing Sunday’s effort in tonight’s game will give us a good indication of whether this team is serious about making the playoffs or not.

Whenever you have a top-scoring player out with an injury, it’s good to see the other stars step up. We’re seeing that now with Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp combining for 13 points over the last 4 games. Nick Leddy has chipped in 4 assists during that time, and has maintained a positive plus-minus while doing so. In fact, there are few among the blueline corps that have gone more than a point per game into the negative. The area where the Blackhawks need to pick things up is secondary scoring — most notably the guys playing top-six minutes need to start putting up the numbers that justify that much time on the ice. I’m looking at you, Andrew Brunette.

The kids are all hanging in there, nobody in particular is making a splash or sucking wind. Though we should give a shout-out to Andrew Shaw for going 7 rounds with Brendan Smith in the Detroit (*spitting noise*) tilt. Rookie Dylan Olsen has seen his minutes reduced with the acquisition of Johnny Oduya, but he is still holding up his end of the bargain on the 3rd pairing.

And speaking of which, Oduya is proving to be a wise pickup by GM Stan Bowman. NHL Network commentator Barry Melrose called Oduya the best defenseman moved at the deadline. And I know, it’s Melrose… but he might actually have gotten this one right. Oduya has shown good speed, good maneuverability, good vision, good puck-moving skills, and with or without the puck the guy always has his head up. He’s one of those guys that is in the mix at both ends on every shift, and rarely out of position. He’s quickly dispelling any ghosts of Chris Campoli that may have followed him to Chicago.

Finally, it’s now apparent that, barring injury or a meltdown of epic proportion, we have seen the last of Corey Crawford for the season. Ray Emery capped a terrific week of 3 wins in 3 starts by earning the NHL’s 3rd Star of the Week honors on Monday. Over the weekend our own JesusMarianHossa posited that it’s Emery’s net to lose at this point, and based on Head Coach Joel Quenneville’s habits from years past, we will see Emery take every start from now until they tell the Blackhawks to clean out their lockers for the summer. If Emery keeps playing like he did last week, that day may be well into June. Cross your fingers.

Administrative nonsense: the Blues are actually worse off in the injury department than the Blackhawks are at present. Defensemen Kris Russell and Kent Huskins, as well as forwards Alexander Steen, Matt d’Agostini, and Jamie Langenbrunner are all out with various ailments. For the Blackhawks, Steve Montador and Jonathan Toews were the known scratches, but it was announced on Monday that Niklas Hjalmarsson would not dress for the game either. It’s Jaroslav Halak between the pipes for St. Louis; Chicago will start Ray Emery.

7:00pm start at the Scottrade Center tonight. The game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet; WGN AM-720 has your broadcast radio play-by-play; XM subscribers can listen in on channel 204; and Sirius Premiere customers will find the game on channel 218.

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