Blackhawks putting pressure on Blues as series continues

Blackhawks putting pressure on Blues as series continues

The defending Stanley Cup champions are always the hardest team to eliminate from the playoffs.

It's especially difficult for a team like the St. Louis Blues looking to break through in the postseason by putting away their division rival in the first round.

They have three chances to do it, and they nearly capitalized on the first one but fell short in a double-overtime loss to the Blackhawks in Game 5 on Thursday night.

The Blues are down to two more strikes, and they want to make sure to avoid reaching the final one. 

"There’s no doubt that the longer this series goes, the more pressure will be on that team," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "But at the end of the day, they’re as hungry as ever. I don’t think if you ask any of them, they’ll say that any of that matters.

"It’s focusing on what we know we can do. It’s not worrying about anything beyond tomorrow night. The way we went into last night’s game, we told ourselves we just have to play one shift at a time and find a way to win tonight.

"It’s probably going to be another one-goal game the way we saw, a big winner by (Patrick Kane) there yesterday. Tomorrow’s the same thing. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll just focus on exactly what we need to do shift by shift."

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This comes less than 14 hours after the Blues displayed some confidence of their own that they will be able to come into Chicago and knock the Blackhawks off for a third straight time in Game 6 on Saturday night.

"It's going to be fun here to win it in Chicago," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said after Thursday's game. "That's the game plan right now. Their backs are still against the wall. We've all got to flip the switch and get ready for Saturday."

While it may come across as overly confident, this is the type of different determination the Blues appear to have this spring as opposed to years past that Toews acknowledged on Friday.

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The Blackhawks have had that for a while, and don't think winning three Stanley Cups makes this team any less hungry to win another one.

They've been there. They've done that. 

The Blues are the ones looking to capture their first title in franchise history, and the Blackhawks surely won't make it easy on them.

"Yeah, I agree," Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson responded when asked if the pressure gets warmer on the Blues as the series goes deeper. "Just looking at the past, I think the team had a lot of pressure to make it past the first round.

"We're still very hungry to go on a deep playoff run here. We're not satisfied in any way with what we've accomplished in the past. It's all about now and it's all about what we're going to do about this year and not what we've done in the past as I said.

"I think they're feeling the pressure, but we just have to take one game at a time here and we got to bring a better game than we've done here at home. We have to get a win."

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak


Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.