At this point, the Chicago Blackhawks might grasp a bit for motivation before each game, at least compared to other teams. Sunday’s NHL on NBC match against the St. Louis Blues might dangle an extra carrot or two, though.
Most importantly, the Blues still need to cement a playoff spot that the Blackhawks clinched a week ago.
If thwarting their division rivals isn’t enough, then the Blackhawks can set an individual target: Brian Elliott.
Since returning from his conditioning stint in the AHL, Elliott seemingly transformed from the below-average backup he was in the beginning of the season to the guy who stunned the hockey world by becoming at All-Star last season.
He’s about a period short* of claiming the longest shutout streak in Blues’ franchise history, but the Blackhawks high-flying attack might not make that very easy.
Only the Pittsburgh Penguins have scored more goals than Chicago this season, and when you consider all the injuries that have besieged the East’s top team, one could argue that the ‘Hawks might have the most dangerous offense at this very moment.
Yet while that potent attack will challenge Elliott to make history, it’s the team’s overall dominance that must leave Ken Hitchcock green with envy. The Blackhawks have allowed an NHL-low 85 goals this season, signifying the kind of own-zone presence many would expect from St. Louis.
Goaltending could even be a wash, too, as Ray Emery and Corey Crawford have been a brilliant duo over the long haul, not just the last few games.
It all shapes up to be a huge test for a Blues team that some might pick to be a dangerous dark horse candidate. You can get an idea about how the Blues measure up against one of the league’s best teams by tuning in to NBC at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
* – Elliott’s streak is at 189 minutes and 29 seconds; the Blues’ record is 201:24. He might even set his sights on Brian Boucher’s league-wide record of 332:01, although that can’t happen on Sunday.