Earl Weaver, the crusty old baseball manager often held court with the media, naked, in his office, after a game. Earl wasn't much to look at, so in those circumstances you better bring the clever or people will go home or hit the bar. Earl had pearls of wisdom all night and all day.
One of Earl's pearls was this: the most important pitch in baseball is strike one. If that first strike comes on the first pitch, the batter is in the hole. If that strike comes after a ball, then you're back to even. If the pitcher is wide twice before the first strike is thrown, the batter has a big advantage. Three balls before a strike? MAJOR, major advantage for the man at bat.
Hockey playoffs work in a similar way. The most important win is the first one. For St. Louis, they got that win before Chicago, and that's an advantage. They slipped another one past the 'Hawks, now that's a distinct advantage. However, Chicago is a strong team and they won the third game.
So the count stands 2-1 in favor of St. Louis. Tonight's game is a monster. If St. Louis wins this thing we're looking at a team on the verge of ending a tough first-round series in five games, and this is a team some people (not just me) picked to win Stanley.
It's a big damn deal. The Blues entered the postseason with legit injury issues, and the Blackhawks are a very physical team who have been playing on the edge and beyond. If they can end it in five, that means a few precious days to recover.
The Blues have been getting a lot of production in this series from their blue, I'll bet Sobotka, Tarasenko and Schwartz enjoy big nights tonight.
These are strong possession teams, and St. Louis has a very slight edge. Naked Earl says win tonight and tomorrow is a brighter day.