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
Here we go again.
For the third time in this series, the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks played into overtime, thrilling and agitating a lot of hockey fans deep into the night, and for the first time in extra play the Hawks came out on top with a 4-3 victory, tying their best of seven first round series at 2-2.
With the United Center crowd at their back once again, the home team had a great start to the game Wednesday, putting instant pressure on the Blues. The Hawks held a clear advantage in the shots on goal department (13-8), giving them momentum going into the second period, although they didn’t score in the first like they did Monday.
Scoring picked up as Andrew Shaw scored his first goal of the playoffs at eight minutes, 40 seconds of the second period on the power play, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead. The onslaught continued as Patrick Kane scored his second goal of the playoffs on a wrist shot, extending the lead to 2-0.
Mental lapses that haunted the Hawks in the first two games of this series struck back temporarily as Vladimir Tarasenko, the hottest scorer in this series for the Blues, scored his third goal of the playoffs on the power play at 18:51, cutting the lead in half after Kane was called for a penalty.
The Blues struck again right away before the end of the second as Maxim LaPierre delivered his first playoff goal (19:56), tying the score at 2-2. The sold out UC crowd was restless and nervous at this point and they had every reason to be. The Blues carried that momentum into the third period, which saw the second goal of the game — and fourth of the series — from Tarasenko to give the Blues a 3-2 lead.
For the first time in this series, the Hawks were trailing on the scoreboard late in regulation. This was a unique situation for the team where they really had to show their resolve or lose this game and likely the series. Bryan Bickell stepped up and got himself on the playoff scoring board for the first time this year on a tip-in, tying the score at 3-3 with just under four minutes left in the game, setting us up for another overtime classic.
The Hawks set the tone in overtime and had numerous chances to end the game soon with Ben Smith and Patrick Kane taking shot after shot but not getting past Blues goalie Ryan Miller. Pressure continued to mount and a potential 3-1 series deficit looked possible but Kane delivered on cue at 11:17 in overtime with the game-winning goal and his second of the game to give the Hawks new life in this series.
With its aggressive approach in overtime, Chicago out-shot the Blues by a 6-2 margin in that period. In the end, Hawks goalie Corey Crawford stopped 30 of 33 shots for a save percentage of .909. Miller continued his struggles for the Blues, he collected 30 saves but carried a slightly above-average save percentage of .882.
CHI — Marian Hossa earned his first point of the series with an assist.
CHI — Jonathan Toews impacted the game with two assists.
CHI — Bryan Bickell once again lead the team in hits (7).
CHI — Went 1-for-2 on the power play.
CHI — Niklas Hjalmarsson lead the team in blocked shots (4).
STL — Steve Ott lead the team in hits (7).
CHI — Patrick Kane’s late second period penalty (delay of game), which allowed the Blues to get back into the game.
STL — Going 1-for-5 on the power play.
CHI — Making a clear lead in the giveaways category (13-4).
Looking at Game 5
With the Hawks tying the series at 2-2, we now have a best 2 out of 3 on our hands. St. Louis can look at this situation and say we played our best, but we have nothing to show for it. Further complicating things, it has to be remembered that the Blues had a 2-0 series lead last season against the Los Angeles Kings and lost the series in six games (4-2).
The Blues still have the home ice advantage, but do they have the mental resolve to overcome a talented Hawks team now playing the way it wants to play? With momentum now clearly on the Hawks side, all they should look to do is win one game in St. Louis and the sooner the better.
If Chicago wins Game 5, I believe that this series is over for the Blues. Crawford has outplayed Ryan Miller in goal and Patrick Kane looks like his offensive game is about to take off and there’s hardly anything more dangerous than that.
Can the Hawks finally win a road playoff game or will the Blues find home ice magic once again? The answers to these questions will be revealed Friday night.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
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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