Blackhawks aware these Blues are 'not the same team' as years past

Blackhawks aware these Blues are 'not the same team' as years past

On paper, the Blues are every bit as good as the Blackhawks.

The fact they battled for first place in the Western Conference until the final game of the regular season despite the amount of injuries to quality players they'd had to overcome proves that.

It's the mental hurdle that's the biggest issue, which may not be one anymore for these Blues.

"Whatever's happened in years before, they're not the same team," Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford acknowledged following a 3-2 loss on Sunday afternoon.

It appeared, however, the Blues were headed in that familiar wrong direction stemming from mental lapses that has plagued them in previous seasons.

They opened Game 3 by committing three undisciplined penalties before the first television timeout even occurred.

If the national anthem didn't fire up the sold-out crowd of 22,207 at the United Center, those early man-advantages did. The Blackhawks capitalized on one of those, and it was the very first shot of the game.

"Obviously, first shot of the game, you never want to give it up," said Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, who stopped 44 shots in the win. "We got some tough calls right away, after that we killed them off and we did a great job, like you said it kind of, definitely settles you in. You're down one and you got to come back, so now the rest is kind of up to your teammates and they did a good job coming back."

Viktor Svedberg committed the Blackhawks' first penalty of the game at the 12:04 mark of the first period, and the Blues wasted no time, cashing in before the 6-foot-7 defenseman could take a seat in the penalty box seven seconds later.

The Blues, overall, committed five penalties — one of which was a double-minor — and didn't allow a goal on the power play after that first shot. Give credit to another stellar performance by Elliott, who staved off 23 of his 44 shots in the second period.

"That's how many shots they had? Well that's pretty good," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock jokingly responded when informed of the Blackhawks' 24 shot attempts in the second.

The only one Elliott didn't stop was an Artem Anisimov shot in the slot that fluttered past Elliott, which came 64 seconds into the frame.

The Blues kept bending and bending. But they didn't break, and that was good enough as they escaped the period trailing by one goal that felt like much more.

All the Blues needed was a break to go their way, and they got it.

Early in the third period, Patrik Berglund snapped a wrist shot as he entered the Blackhawks' zone and it ricocheted off Michal Rozsival's skate, took a funny bounce on the ice, and knuckle-balled past Crawford to even the score 2-2.

"We were due a bounce," David Backes said. "After that, that gave us a huge jolt. I think the first part of the third period we feel that we had a heck of a push and we're playing our game, and it was great to see from this group. It took us maybe eight periods to get to it, but we finally saw shades of St. Louis Blues out there."

Patrick Kane was guilty of a four-minute high-sticking penalty with 8:09 to play in regulation, and the Blues wouldn't squander the opportunity, as Jaden Schwartz buried a tic-tac-toe play to give the Blues a 3-2 lead and the win.

The Blues handed the Blackhawks their first regulation loss when leading after two periods in almost two years — they were 70-0-4 entering Game 3. But more importantly, they regained home-ice advantage in a series that's just getting started.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when teams are tied 1-1 in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoffs series, the winner of Game 3 holds an all-time series record of 194-97 (66.7 percent).

On the contrary, the Blackhawks are 43-14 in Games 4-7 under coach Joel Quenneville, reinforcing the tough task at hand.

"This series isn't over," Backes said. "It's going to be a heck of a grind. Who knows, it may take seven, but every game is going to be this one-goal, tight-checking, every-play-counts and we love the group that we've got and the feeling has been consistent, and that's lessons we've learned that's pulled us into a 2-1 lead in a hostile building."

Said Hitchcock: "Every game's been up for grabs, probably going to be like that (the rest of the series). No quit in either team."

That no-quit attitude is evident in this Blues team, and it's exactly what they need in order to eliminate the reigning Stanley Cup champions.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks show urgency vs. the undefeated

The Blackhawks finally got on the board for the season and did so in front of the 500th consecutive capacity crowd at the United Center.

Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the impressive performance by the Blackhawks against the undefeated Edmonton Oilers and discuss how Jeremy Colliton’s message got through to Alex Nylander and the rest of the team.

Plus, after an impressive performance in net, should Corey Crawford get the next game vs. the Blue Jackets? And what does the future have in store for Kirby Dach? Jamal makes a bold prediction.

0:54 – Blackhawks finally show urgency in 2nd period

2:47 – Penalty kill starting to show some life

5:00 – Thoughts on the Shaw/Strome/Kane line

6:43 – Blackhawks eliminating some defensive breakdowns

9:23 – Big rebound performance from Corey Crawford

11:36 – Colliton’s message to Alex Nylander got through

15:21 – Brandon Saad has been a pleasant surprise early on

17:15 – Dominik Kubalik’s impressive performance

18:31 – Will Kirby Dach be with the Blackhawks all season?

22:42 – Does Crawford or Lehner start vs. the Blue Jackets?

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Four takeaways: Corey Crawford shines in Blackhawks first win of the season

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on Monday:

1. Blackhawks are in the win column

The Blackhawks said after morning skate that they weren't going to "freak out" about their 0-2-1 start despite talking all training camp long about how they didn't want to dig a hole in October. Still, Monday felt like a game they had to win going into a three-day break because they have to start generating some positive vibes within the locker room.

And they did just that.

The Blackhawks handed the Oilers their first loss of the season (5-1-0), but more importantly, they're finally in the win column for the 2019-20 campaign.

"We played really well," Corey Crawford said. "I think everyone was going. Guys were coming back to help out defensively, and just a good team effort. The PK was strong, even though we gave up that one [late], it was strong early in the game. Just nice to win the first one."

2. Second period? That's more like it

The Blackhawks have been happy with their first periods this season. They've been mostly happy with their thirds. It's the middle frame that's been their downfall.

The team addressed those struggles as a team the morning of the game, and they certainly responded.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (32-8), even-strength scoring chances (16-6), even-strength high danger chances (5-4) and, of course, the goal column (1-0) in the second period. That's more like it.

"That was the message today from the coaches was how much better we need to be in the second," Connor Murphy said. "We showed examples of when we've done that in the past and what it takes. I think we were just better at staying on our toes and we drew some penalties and got on the forecheck quick and kept their goalie from being able to make plays and for them to be able to come up ice."

3. Corey Crawford shines

You could've made a good argument that Robin Lehner should've started this game, especially coming off a solid outing on Saturday and his career numbers against the Oilers (5-1-2 with a 1.86 goals-against average and .943 save percentage). But the coaching staff went with Crawford and it proved to be the correct decision.

Crawford stopped 27 of 28 shots for a save percentage of .964 and faced nine high-danger chances at 5-on-5, none of which found the back of the net. His lone goal against came with 2:11 left in regulation and it was on a 6-on-4 power play for the Oilers. Overall, he was fantastic.

"He looked sharp as ever," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He was really good. He did make some saves for us. That team has some weapons so they had some opportunities and he was there and just he's under control. It's something I've said about him before, he really gives the team confidence. I thought tonight he was really good."

4. Blackhawks shut down Oilers' top guns

The first line of Leon Draisaitl, Zack Kassian and Connor McDavid went into Monday tied for the most goals scored as a trio. When the three of them are on the ice at 5-on-5, they're controlling 57.1 percent of the shot attempts, 61.2 percent of the scoring chances and 68.8 percent of the high danger chances.

The Blackhawks held them in check. That line had 14 shot attempts for and 20 against at 5-on-5 and were on the ice for 11 scoring chances. The third line of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad did a terrific job of shutting them down.

"They all just got real big motors, big engine," Colliton said of the Saad-Kampf-Kubalik line. "They work and compete and they all bring a little bit different ingredient. ... Pleased with that line."

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