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.