NHL Playoffs: Hawks Heading Back Home in 0-2 Hole

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

After losing in a triple overtime thriller on Thursday, the Chicago Blackhawks’ renewed goal in its first round Stanley Cup Playoff Series was to get one game out of St. Louis before returning to Chicago for the all-important Game 3 coming Monday. Instead, the Blues put a stranglehold on those plans Saturday afternoon with a 4-3 overtime win and a 2-0 series lead.

The start of Game 2 was a carbon copy of Game 1, featuring St. Louis getting ahead quickly as Chris Porter netted his first goal of the playoffs and Kevin Shattenkirk nailing home his first goal at the end of the first period, giving the home team a two-goal advantage. In between those two goals, the Hawks had four power play chances to cut into the lead, but came up empty handed. As the second period began, the Hawks looked undisciplined and committed three straight penalties, but luckily enough the penalty kill unit bailed them out and kept St. Louis from advancing the lead further.

Defenseman Duncan Keith helped steer the momentum back to Chicago, scoring his first goal of the playoffs to make it a 2-1 game by the end of the second. The third period would see the Hawks defense step up again, with goals from Brent Seabrook and Michal Rozsival giving Chicago a 3-2 lead.

Here, the Blues started to ramp up their physical play and the Hawks were able to match them pound for pound for a while but they fell apart late with the game — and possibly the series — turning on Seabrook’s tough hit of Blues captain David Backes to the boards, which made Backes leave his feet after taking contact to the head area.

Seabrook received a five minute penalty and a game misconduct, putting the Blues on the power play. With just seconds left in the game, holding on to its 3-2 lead, the Hawks let St. Louis respond via Vladimir Tarasenko, who delivered his second goal of the playoffs and tied the score at 3-3 with six seconds to go. For the second straight game we were seeing extra hockey.

As overtime commenced, the Blues didn’t waste time, striking at the 5:50 mark with Barrett Jackman scoring his first goal of the playoffs off a slapshot that just got passed Corey Crawford. Crawford played well again, collecting 27 saves off 31 shots with a .871 save percentage but his counterpart, Blues goalie Ryan Miller, edged him once more, stopping 25 of 28 shots with a save percentage of .893.

Giving Props

CHI — Bryan Bickell leading the team with seven hits
CHI — Brandon Saad with his two assists
STL — Kevin Shattenkirk leading the team with three points (1G, 2A)
STL — Shutting the Hawks out on Chicago’s man advantage (4-4)

Mishaps

CHI Going 0-4 on the power play. This must turnaround quickly in Chicago for Games 3 and 4
CHI — 41 penalty minutes… 41 penalty minutes… Without getting into foul language, I’ll just offer one word: undisciplined
CHI — Brent Seabrook’s hit on David Backes, which will likely cost him at least one game due to a suspension

Looking at Game 3

The Hawks protected the puck much better in Game 2 but seemed to fall victim to fatigue and undisciplined play, which cost them in each of the first two games. Give St. Louis credit for coming back in each contest and breaking the will of the Hawks by out hustling them and drawing penalties along the way.

Hawks players have said that they’re going to use their experience from last year to get through this series, it hasn’t served them well yet. With Games 3 and 4 at the United Center, there’s still no reason to hit the panic button but these guys are playing closer and closer to the edge.

The Hawks should receive a energy boost from the home fans, but they’ll likely have to do it without Seabrook. The power play must improve immediately and not get into fisticuffs after the whistle. And most importantly: SET THE TONE FROM START TO FINISH, get out ahead in the game and it could mean all the difference.

It’s just as simple as one, two three — if the Hawks don’t win both of these home games, this series will be over in a hurry.

The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)

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

Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio and Sidney Brown on Twitter @sidkid80

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