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
At this moment, the world is at least a little more all right, that is if you’re a Chicago Blackhawks fan.
With a 2-0 victory in Game 3 Monday night, the Hawks have maintained their home ice advantage going forward and scrapped back into their first round series with the St. Louis Blues. Chicago started off hot in its home environment, building off a slick wrister from captain Jonathan Toews, his first goal of the playoffs, coming at 4 minutes, 10 seconds left in the first.
The Hawks took that 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but St. Louis picked up its energy and drew penalties on Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. Still they came up empty handed on those man advantages and unraveled further in the second period, committing four penalties of their own. The Hawks held a golden opportunity to open the game up during this stretch, but as the story has been throughout this series, nothing showed from it. As the third period unfolded we got some classic playoff action complete with strong defense, tight checking and great goaltending.
Keeping their game simple, the Hawks were aggressive and able to close this game without the kind of mental lapses that plagued their Game 2 effort.
Fourth line center Marcus Kruger netted home his first goal of the playoffs (19:40) on an empty net to seal the deal in a close contest. An empty netter seemed to be the only way either team would have scored again by this game’s end. Great goaltending from both sides: Corey Crawford took his game to the next level for the Blackhawks, not slipping up once while making 34 saves for his third career playoff shutout.
Ryan Miller held his own for the Blues, stopping 23 of 24 shots with a save percentage of .958. The Blues out-shot the Hawks by nine but it wasn’t nearly enough, they did not get much traffic in front of Crawford.
The Hawks have regained a good deal of momentum going into Game 4 and they’ll have to do it again without starting defenseman Brent Seabrook, who’ll serve the second of his three-game suspension for his hit on David Backes.
Off the strength of his great performance I had no choice but to return the Game Puck and give it to Crawford.
CHI — Defenseman Duncan Keith notched two points in Game 3 (1 goal,1 assist).
CHI — Defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Oduya tied for the team lead in blocked shots with four each.
CHI — Bryan Bickell lead the team in hits (8).
CHI — The Hawks penalty kill unit blanked the Blues power play, making good on all three chances.
CHI — The Hawks won the overall faceoff battle by 12 (39-27).
STL — Steve Ott lead his team in hits (8).
CHI — The power play unit was ineffective again, getting shutout 0-4.
STL — Committed four penalties in the second period, but got lucky due to the Hawks not scoring on any of their chances.
STL — Like the Hawks, 0-4 on the power play.
Looking at Game 4
Hawks fans should be encouraged that your team figured out how to win a close game again, cause it would have surely meant the series if they didn’t.
Also, this team was once again attentive to details, blocking shots and not taking dumb penalties, managing to stay disciplined through the entire game. On the other side St. Louis apparently missed David Backes more than I would have expected and it couldn’t find anyone to step up offensively like they were able to in Games 1 and 2.
The Blues’ new goal is to get this next game and put a stranglehold on this series, unless they feel like leaning on the fact that a scheduled Game 7 will be in the Lou. They need Backes back in the lineup. If Backes is unable to go in Game 4, someone has to step up, pressure could sit squarely on players like TJ Oshie and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Will the Hawks hold serve on United Center ice one more time? Will the Blues turn things around offensively? The answers to these questions will be answered Wednesday night.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
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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