WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run as well as predictions on the rest of the NHL
Emotionally, the St. Louis Blues lived up to their name after ending the regular season on a downward spiral of six consecutive losses.
After a 4-3 triple overtime victory in Thursday night’s Game 1 of their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series, the Blues had to be a bit more upbeat, even though they may have been worn out in gaining an advantage over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Not only did the game not end well, it didn’t start well if you were a Hawks fan. Adam Cracknell started off the scoring for the Blues, giving the home team a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
The Hawks started to wake up with goals from defensemen Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook, giving the road team a 2-1 lead but St. Louis responded with its second-year sensation Vladimir Tarasenko, who netted his first goal of the playoffs to tie the score at 2-2. It would be a one goal advantage for Chicago heading into the first intermission, though, after Patrick Kane, returning from injury, scored on a breakaway off a sweet 110-foot pass from Jonathan Toews, also returning from injury, put the Hawks up 3-2.
The next period and a half provided a great example of playoff hockey featuring strong checking and hard-hitting plays, each side not giving much of an inch. As the third period wound down, the Hawks sacrificed their slight advantage by starting to make careless plays, turning the puck over and not connecting on passes.
As turnovers piled up, the Blues thrilled their home crowed by capitalizing off the Hawks’ lackluster passing and Jaden Schwartz reaped the reward, tying the game up with 1:45 left in regulation.
There’s nothing like overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and this game lived up to that belief. Thru the two full overtimes, both teams produced numerous scoring chances, including two power play chances for the Hawks, but nothing came about. Fatigued showed on both teams and this got to the heart of the beauty of playoff overtime hockey — who can overcome the natural elements of tire and frustration to win a needed game? Who will rise up as a hero and live on in NHL postseason lore? Only 26 seconds into the third overtime we got that answer.
Alexander Steen netted home the game-winner off a tremendous pass from Steve Ott to put St. Louis up a game on Chicago. Helping make a difference was the Blues ending the game with a ten shot advantage in shots on goal (52-42).
CHI — Corey Crawford with his 48 saves off 52 shots (.923 save percentage). The game could have ended much sooner if not for Crawford’s huge saves, especially in the overtimes. Crawford’s game is beyond any nit-picking at this point — haters must sit down PERIOD!
CHI — Patrick Kane for scoring on the breakaway late in the first period. It didn’t take him much time to shake off rust from his late season knee injury.
CHI — 1-6 on the power play (I’ll save the complaining, did enough of that in last season’s playoff run).
STL — For out-hitting the Hawks by 15 (42-27).
STL — Ryan Miller with his 39 saves off 42 shots (.929 save %). Big save after big save to keep the Blues alive in the overtimes.
CHI — Leading in the giveaway category 12 to St. Louis’ 8.
CHI — Zero points from Bickell and Shaw, showing not much involvement in the offense.
CHI — Trailing the Blues in the takeaways category by ten (16-6).
Looking at Game 2
It’s simple as this for the Hawks — you’re the road team and you came to St. Louis to win one game. A golden opportunity was there in Game 1 and you blew it by self-destructing at the end of regulation.
The game plan going forward is to keep things simple by connecting on passes, taking care of the puck and getting more traffic in front of Ryan Miller — there was very little action in that department Thursday. Try to score first this time and make the Blues play your game, because while the Blues have roster depth to match the Hawks, they lack the speed and skill of the Hawks.
After the three OT loss, the Blues have confidence right now, they can just play for the time being while pressure will mount slightly on the Hawks. Losing on Saturday afternoon creates a 0-2 hole and puts the team on the verge of a completely demoralizing situation for Game 3 if they can’t win. Chicago played with fire last year with Detroit and Boston and still found fortune, we can’t be too sure if it’s going to be the same story this go-around. I still expect this to be a long series, we’re just getting started.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
Game 2: Saturday at St. Louis 2PM CT (NBC)
Game 3: Monday at Chicago 7:30PM CT (CSN Chicago, CNBC)
Game 4: Wednesday at Chicago 8:30PM CT (CSN Chicago, NBCSN)
Game 5: April 25 at St. Louis 7PM CT (CSN Chicago, NBCSN)*
Game 6: April 27 at Chicago 2PM CT (NBC)*
Game 7: April 29 at St. Louis TBD (CSN Chicago)*
*= If Necessary
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