After surging into the postseason with two big wins in New York to earn the second wild-card spot, the rejuvenated Blackhawks head into a first round showdown with the rival Blues, who swept Chicago in the regular season series. Youth and defense fueled the Blackhawks in the last two games, which saw the likes of Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander play big roles in earning a playoff bid.
As the Hawks head into Game 1, they’ll look for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews to return to the scoresheet like they have so many times in past playoffs. St. Louis comes into the series on a roll, one they’ve practically been on since midseason last year. Not much is expected league-wide from the Hawks in this series. Can they shock the world and make some noise against their biggest rival?
Game 1: Blackhawks at Blues (April 8)
Result: Blues win 6-4 (STL leads 1-0)
First Star: Ryan O’Reilly (2 G, 4 SOG)
Second Star: Vince Dunn (3 A, 1 SOG, 1 H, +1)
Third Star: Alex DeBrincat (2 G, 5 SOG)
DeBrincat was the star for the Hawks, netting two goals and getting five shots on net. O’Reilly starred for the Blues, single-handedly bringing them back from a 4-2 deficit with a pair of goals, including a momentum-shifting goal late in the second period. That woke up the crowd and the team as the Blues added three more unanswered goals in the third.
8:16 Alexander Steen (O. Sundqvist, V. Dunn) 1-0
11:49 Alex DeBrincat (D. Keith) 1-1
12:55 Alex DeBrincat (J. Toews, O. Maatta) 2-1
13:41 PP Robert Thomas (Z. Sanford, C. Parayko) 2-2
7:31 Dominik Kubalik (S. Koekkoek) 3-2
14:00 Patrick Kane (D. Strome) 4-2
18:34 R. O’Reilly (J. Schwartz, V. Dunn) 4-3
9:45 Ryan O’Reilly (C. Gunnarsson) 4-4
19:07 PP Brayden Schenn (C. Parayko, V. Dunn)
19:51 EN Jordan Kyrou (Unassisted)
Shots on goal
St. Louis: 30
The Blackhawks kept up with the Blues the whole way, going shot-for-shot all 60 minutes. The turning point was O’Reilly’s late goal, which sparked the favored-Blues and their crowd. The Hawks gave up a few more shots on goal compared t the past two games, but taking four penalties played a hand in that. Their familiar names were back on the scoresheet, but unfortunately the defense fell back into old habits and couldn’t contain the Blues surge.
Corey Crawford: 24/29 (.828 SV%)
Jordan Binnington: 26/30 (.867 SV%)
For the Blackhawks to make a run, perhaps the most important is Crawford's play. He wasn’t at his best in Game 1, and thus finished with a 6-4 loss. Part of the issue was rebound control, which led to the Blues coming back to tie things up, but the defense didn’t do much to help. The penalty kill also left him hanging high and dry, especially on the game-winner, with Schenn cashing in wide open.
St. Louis 3-4
No doubt Jeremy Colliton and company aren’t thrilled about getting zero power plays in Game 1, and they’ll certainly be in officials’ ears to try and change that. However, the real killer here was the penalty kill. After the Blackhawks' PK stepped up down the stretch, they collapsed in Game 1, allowing three goals on four chances. Special teams success was arguably the biggest factor down the stretch for the Hawks, and they need it to return to form to have any chance against St. Louis in this series.
Notable Blackhawks performances:
Patrick Kane (Goal)
Dominik Kubalik (Goal)
Duncan Keith (Assist)
The Blackhawks saw their familiar names return to the scoresheet, with regular season goal leaders Kane and Kubalik each notching a goal. Toews assisted on one of DeBrincat’s tallies. Keith assisted on another. But the youth movement came to a bit of a halt in Game 1.
After playing big roles to close out the regular season, Dach, Strome, Boqvist and Nylander combined for just one assist. The Hawks will need their young role players to play a bigger role again to provide the depth needed to get by the Blues.
Game 1 of the playoffs looked much more like the first 70 regular season games than the last 12 for the Hawks. Chicago’s offense wasn’t able to bail out their defensive deficiencies like it did much of the season. It’s only one game, and a win in Game 2 would give the Hawks all the momentum as the series shifts to Chicago.
In order to send the series home tied 1-1, the Blackhawks will need better play across the board. Look for a bounce-back performance after a tough loss.