Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom throughout the hockey season.
Six fought hard games, five one-goal contests and two overtime finishes has made for a hell of a series and for one where a seventh game is as natural as the fact that only one team from this latest postseason clash between the St. Louis Blues and the defending Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks gets to play another day past today.
Coming into this series, many fans and experts predicted the demise of the Blues despite their home ice advantage, the team has displayed in recent years an inability to make it out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. During the first half of this series, the Blues received great goaltending from Brian Elliot and timely goal scoring from Vladimir Tarasenko, David Backes and Alex Steen, playing as good a brand of playoff hockey as this franchise has seen.
Chicago’s failures in crucial moments, especially in Games 3 and 4, meanwhile led to a 3-1 series hole for a team who had no reason to believe they couldn’t make another deep run to the Cup, which would make for the Hawks’ fourth domination of the NHL in seven years.
In the past two games, with such dreams on the verge of evaporating, the Hawks have won and displayed their championship mettle with great authority with the team’s superstars stepping up to the stage.
Games 5 and 6
Jonathan Toews: 3 assists
Patrick Kane: Goal and two assists (OT winner in Game 5)
Marian Hossa: 2 goals and a assist
Role players for the Men in Red have filled in nicely with Richard Panik, Dale Weise and Artem Anisimov contributing well. With Panik’s move to the top line with Kane and Toews, Panik has tallied two assists and delivered 12 total hits this series.
After his being scratched in Game 4, mid-season trade pickup Weise has finally paid some dividends, scoring a goal in Game 6 and tallying 5 total hits to bring much energy to the fourth line.
Second line center Anisimov has scored two goals maintaining balance scoring among the top two lines. Goaltending from Corey Crawford has been very good and the power play has resurfaced scoring two big goals in their comeback win in Game 6.
Hawks in Game 7’s Under Coach Quenneville:
2011: 1st round loss at Vancouver
2013: Second round win vs. Detroit
2014: Western Conference Final loss vs. Los Angeles Kings
2015: Western Conference Final win at Anaheim
In playoff series, especially in Game 7’s, experience counts for a lot and it’s very valuable and no one knows that better than the Hawks. Chicago currently has 19 players who’ve played in Game 7 compared to the Blues who have a total of eight players playing in a final game of a series. With winning the last two contests, the Hawks clearly have the edge and confidence to go along with it.
The team with the most pressure is St. Louis because of expectations of advancing past the first round with a better roster, once holding a 3-1 series lead and the goal tending play becoming unraveled. As history has shown in recent years, the longer the series goes, chances increase for the Hawks to eliminate their opponent.
What To Look For In Game 7
With the experience of the Hawks, look for Chicago to establish their game early along with tightening up their team defense taking pressure of Crawford. The Blues must score the first goal to give themselves confidence and to use the home crowd to their advantage.
Should starter Brian Elliot struggle early, expect backup Jake Allen to get some time in net. This game will come down to who makes the crucial mistake and which goaltender will step up to make the key saves.
Will the Hawks win a series after trailing 3-1 for the second time in franchise history or will the Blues finally seize the opportunity in knocking out their division rival and advance to the second round? Game 7 should be one for the ages between these historic rivals.
MY PREDICTION: Hawks 3, Blues 2
By The Numbers – Game 7s All Time
*Home Teams are 94-67 (.584)
*Teams that score 1st are 119-42 (.739)
*40 of 161 have gone to overtime (24.8%)
*Blackhawks All Time: 7-6
*Blues All Time: 6-8
Series Stats (Total)
Hits: Hawks (187), Blues (249)
Power Play: Hawks (5-18), Blues (5-16)
Shots On Goal: Hawks (223), Blues (179)
Hawks Round 1 Schedule*
Tonight at St. Louis — 7:30 pm^
*All times central
^Broadcast on CSN-Chicago & NBCSN
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