Blues beating Blackhawks at their own game

Blues beating Blackhawks at their own game

ST. LOUIS – Two years ago when the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues met in the first round of the postseason, their respective roles were defined.

The Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions entering that series too, were the unruffled ones. They were the ones shrugging off deficits. They were the ones keeping their cool.

Fast forward two years later and the roles seem to be reversing. The Blues, once skittish, have become stalwart while the Blackhawks are showing signs of frustration and, considering all their line changes onTuesday, some desperation.

So have the roles reversed so much that the Blues finally get over the hump and eliminate the Blackhawks? If the current trend continues, the defending champs could be finished playing hockey in April for the first time since 2012.

In the past the Blackhawks have played some great hockey when their backs were against the wall. They’ll find out if they still do on Thursday night, when the Blues host them in Game 5 of their first-round series. But again, things just seem different this postseason. In this series the Blackhawks lost Games 3 and 4 at the United Center – they only lost two home games through four rounds last spring.

Usually the masters of the comebacks, the Blackhawks have watched the Blues beat them at their own game in the last two contests. Their frustration showed several times in Game 4. While they took the lead on an inexplicably earned power play in the second, their penalty kill failed them twice more.

“You look at the first three games, we played pretty well. There were stretches [Tuesday] night where we weren’t as good as other games,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “At the end of the night we still had more chances but we had some areas we can be better in. Some other areas we found a way to get to the net, we got rewarded."

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These are not the Blues of two years ago. They’re no longer just trying to beat the Blackhawks with hits, which never works on its own.They’re now beating them with hits, and their power play and more forward depth and, to single out one guy, Vladimir Tarasenko.

These also aren’t the Blackhawks of two years ago, or even of last year. Can they come back from a 3-1 deficit? Considering their recent track record, you don’t rule anything out. But these Blues seem to have taken a page out of the Blackhawks’ playbook, and getting it back is going to be that much tougher.

“We've just got to look back to what's made us a successful team over the last number of years,” Jonathan Toews said. “There [are] some details that are present, and there are some that haven't been in these games that we have lost.

"Part of that is things that happen after the whistle; stuff that we've always done a good job of just staying away from and keeping it between the whistle, and just focusing our energy and our emotion in to the play that we bring on the ice. That's what we're going to need tomorrow night.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?