Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom throughout the hockey season.
As it enters an elimination game this Saturday, the Chicago Blackhawks are in a familiar position, if not a welcome one, in trailing its series 3-2 to the St. Louis Blues after already playing one game on the brink of elimination.
Only one time the Hawks achieved the feat in winning a series coming back from down 3-1 was 2013 against the Detroit Red Wings in the 2nd round on their way to a 2nd Stanley Cup, but at that time, the Red Wings were a young team and the Hawks used their experience to pull them through.
In 2014, Chicago trailed the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final 3-1 and rallied to force a Game 7 at the UC before losing in overtime. The series loss was due to being out matched and fatigued when it was all said and done. Now here we are in 2016 with the Hawks trying to rally from a huge hole to win a series.
You ask how did the Hawks get in this position? Here are the cold hard facts: The St. Louis Blues have a balanced roster filled with physical guys along with skillful scorers; Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko has stepped up to the spotlight, scoring 3 goals while the Hawks stars have been silent. The Hawks team defense has been poor in key moments, blowing second period leads in their last three games and committing dumb penalties in crucial moments, i.e. Andrew Shaw in the closing minutes of the Game 4 loss, and the Blues have displayed better puck control thus creating multiple and better scoring chances.
After dropping both home games (3 and 4), Chicago made lineup changes by putting Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on the top line and inserting David Rundblad into the “fifth” defenseman role, replacing the struggling veteran Michal Rozsival. The production of Hossa, Toews and Kane in the 4-3 double overtime victory in Game 5 (1 goal, 3 assists) was key along with timely saves from Crawford.
Also, give credit to Dale Weise, Richard Panik and rookie sensation Artemi Panarin for providing energy along with timely scoring (from Panarin) to keep the Hawks afloat in the games. As the old saying goes, “big time players step up in big time games.” Finally, Patrick Kane’s named was called and he answered the bell scoring the game winner in Game 5 to keep the Hawks fighting for another day. Kane now has five career overtime playoff goals dating back to 2010.
Throughout this series, all five games have been decided by one goal giving credit to the play of both teams. Goaltending on both sides has been superb and the major difference in this series has been the Blues power play — which was ranked second in the NHL during the regular season — has been on fire scoring a total of five goals for the series.
The Hawks must tighten up on the penalty kill, stop committing dumb penalties, have better puck control and create constant pressure in front of the net creating scoring chances. Is the tide finally starting to turn for Chicago? Game 6 at the United Center will provide the answers we need.
What To Watch For In Game 6
Things for Hawks fans to watch for Game 6 is how Chicago starts the game in front of their crowd, the return of Andrew Shaw to the lineup and his impact on the ice, if the Hawks have a two or more goal lead, will they take their foot off the pedal? and will Corey Crawford steal the show in net?
St. Louis has the 3-2 series lead but should they lose Game 6 in Chicago, the pressure will be squarely on them going back home for Game 7 against the defending champs facing elimination. Will the Hawks’ stars step up and force Game 7 or will the Blues finally close out the series on the road? Game 6 from the UC should be another classic contest.
Goals: Duncan Keith (3)
Assists: Patrick Kane (5)
Points: Patrick Kane (6)
Goals Against: Corey Crawford (2.37)
Goals: Vladimir Tarasenko – STL (3)
Assists: Patrick Kane – CHI (5)
Points: Patrick Kane – CHI (6)
Goals Against: Brian Elliot – STL (2.00)
Hawks Round 1 Schedule*
Tonight vs St. Louis — 7 pm#
April 25 at St. Louis — TBD (if necessary)^
*All times central
^Broadcast on CSN-Chicago & NBCSN
#Broadcast on NBC
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and Sidney Brown @sidkid80