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
Anyone who follows playoff action knows the old saying that a playoff series doesn’t start until the road team wins.
The Chicago Blackhawks got their first round series against St. Louis started Friday night and did so in time to help themselves to a series victory in the next couple days if they want it. But before we move forward in the Western Conference bracket, a look should be taken at the Hawks’ 3-2 overtime victory in Game 5 to take a commanding 3-2 series lead.
This highly-contested series changer got off to a hot start for the Hawks as Marian Hossa scored his first goal of the playoffs at 16 minutes, 11 seconds in the first period, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period. With pressure ramping up on them, the Blues answered, courtesy of TJ Oshie, with his first goal of the playoffs at 11:04 in the second.
Oshie’s tying score was put squarely in the past soon after as Hawks fourth-liner Ben Smith scoring his first playoff goal (17:10) to put the Hawks back on top 2-1 lead at the end of the second. The third period shaped into a battle of wills as the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo fired the first punch, netting home his first playoff goal with a wrist shot (1:42) off a sweet pass from Jaden Schwartz to tie the score at 2-2.
Pressure alternated throughout this one and St. Louis was now on the attack. In a particular important sequence, the Blues created a 2-on-1 break with Pietrangelo and Oshie. Oshie had a chance to put the home team back in the lead but Hawks goalie Corey Crawford denied him with a great save. In the words of Hawks TV voice Pat Foley, “Crawford said NO!”
The re-emerging Patrick Kane had a chance late in regulation to give the game to Chicago but Blues goalie Ryan Miller made a save at point blank range, making sure that for the fourth time in this overly-thrilling series we would see overtime play. At 7:46 into the extra session, Hawks captain Jonathan Toews delivered the game winner off a sweet lengthy pass from defenseman Duncan Keith who eyed Toews while he completed a line change.
As the goalies were concerned, Crawford made key save after key save to keep the Hawks from losing control, finishing with a total of 27 saves and a .931 save percentage. For the Blues, Miller kept pace better than in the past couple games, at least prior to the overtime period, finishing with 27 saves off 30 shots and a save percentage of .900.
CHI — Lead the takeaway category (11-9).
CHI — Niklas Hjalmarsson lead the team with six blocked shots.
CHI — Lead in the blocked shots category (21-18).
STL — Carried an advantage in faceoff wins (35-31).
STL — David Backes lead the team in hits (8).
CHI/STL — Both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play.
STL — Vladimir Tarasenko picked up no offensive points in Game 5.
CHI — Patrick Sharp was scoreless in Game 5 and remains pointless in the series.
Looking at Game 6
With its all-important Game 5 road victory wrapped up, the Chicago Blackhawks clearly have the momentum in this series and have its best chance to close out their division rival St. Louis Sunday in Game 6 at the United Center.
It seems that the Hawks have hit their stride playing a disciplined game and paying attention to detail. Meanwhile, St. Louis, for the second consecutive season, is in danger of coughing up a 2-0 series lead and losing four straight games to end a series. At this point you have to question the mental toughness of the Blues, in spite of all of their injuries, which certainly have hurt their efforts as well.
This trend of blowing series leads, whether deemed fair or unfair, is a problem that starts with the head coach Ken Hitchcock. With a talented roster and multiple additions this season, led by picking up Ryan Miller at the trading deadline, this was suppose to be the Blues’ year, not only to beat the Blackhawks but to win the Stanley Cup. Should the Blues finish out their losing effort this series, there will be a lot of bewildering questions for this franchise.
As for Sunday’s game, the Hawks will receive an extra boost as defenseman Brent Seabrook returns from his three-game suspension and inserted back in the starting lineup next to Duncan Keith.
Will the Hawks seize the day and close out the Blues? Will Corey Crawford stand on his head once more? Will the Blues bring everything but the kitchen sink or just bring their golf clubs? Will Ryan Miller step his game back up and help bring this series back to St. Louis for Game 7? Whoever answers more of their respective questions will take back the series Sunday or take it for good.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
Game 6: Sunday at Chicago, 2PM CT (NBC)
Game 7: April 29 at St. Louis, TBD (CSN Chicago)*
*= If Necessary
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