Blues edge Blackhawks in overtime to take Game 1

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Blues edge Blackhawks in overtime to take Game 1

ST. LOUIS – It really shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone, right?

The Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues played close hockey games all regular season. Plus going to overtime in Game 1 seems to be a Blackhawks habit – this marked the fifth consecutive season their first game needed extra time.

But just like two years ago in their Game 1 matchup here, the Blackhawks came up short.

David Backes scored the deciding goal 9:04 into overtime and Brian Elliott stopped all 35 shots he saw as the St. Louis Blues beat the Blackhawks 1-0 in Game 1 of their first-round series on Wednesday night.

Corey Crawford stopped 17 of 18 shots in just his second game back from an upper-body injury. Backes’ shot, from an angle, hit off Trevor van Riemsdyk’s right skate and past Crawford.

“Yeah, obviously not what you want there. Tough break,” van Riemsdyk said afterward. “But we just have to come back ready for the next game.”

[SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

It was a tough ending for the Blackhawks but not a debilitating one. They didn’t allow much – the Blues had just 18 shots in the game, including 16 through regulation. Their defense, minus Duncan Keith for the final game of his six-game suspension, played well overall.

“Well there are a lot of positives. I thought we did some good things, certainly had some good looks in the third period, some quality rush chances,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a tight game. But we played exactly the right way and what we’re looking to and didn’t take advantage of the chances we had.”

Yes, some of those chances were on 5-on-5 and others were on the power play. You could’ve looked at both teams’ power plays in two ways: either the power plays failed or the penalty kills were great. It was likely a mix. Quenneville was OK with most of the power plays but didn’t like the last one, when Blues defenseman Colton Parayko sent the puck into the stands just seven seconds into overtime. The Blackhawks barely broke into the Blues’ zone and created nothing.

“I mean I think we saw some pretty good penalty killing by bot teams. Give them credit. But we can move the puck quicker, take our shots and take our chances when we have them and try to generate off the second efforts. That’s how we’ll score goals in the series,” Jonathan Toews said. “When the pucks were lying around we didn’t find them. It’s about settling down and calming down on that power play and just playing with more composure and with our heads up. When we start making those plays things will start happening more.”

The Blackhawks liked a lot of what they did on Wednesday: except the ending. They realize they had ample opportunities to turn that finish to their favor. They wanted to try and sweep the Blues on the road these first two games. Now that opportunity is lost, they’ll go for the split. And to do that, they’ll need the finish in Game 2 that they didn’t have in Game 1.

“There’s not a big difference playing St. Louis (in Round 1) and playing Tampa in the finals. It’s so even nowadays — all eight playoff teams are so close to each other. It’s like a Stanley Cup Final right away,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “St. Louis is one of the best teams in the league. We’re up for a big task here.”

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

Andrew Shaw trying to find balance between toeing the line and not crossing it for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks brought Andrew Shaw back to Chicago because they lacked some bite to their game. He's already meeting expectations in the physicality department, leading the team with 23 hits.

But the other part of his game the Blackhawks have to live with is the amount of penalties he takes. Through six games this season, Shaw has taken at least one penalty in five of them and is tied for third among all NHL skaters with six minors. The only two skaters above him are guys who have played in two and four more games, respectively.

Because he plays on the edge, Shaw will occasionally cross it and he's trying to find that balance between toeing the line and not stepping over it.

"I find if I'm not playing on the edge, I'm not playing great," Shaw said. "I need to play physical. Even in preseason, I was just finishing checks — clean, shoulder-to-shoulder — and was getting penalty after penalty. Hockey still is a physical game. There's still hitting; it's still legal. So I'm going to go out there and play hard, make it hard on my opponents, make it hard on them physically, do what I do. Not going to change who I am now. I'm an old dog."

Shaw's reputation may also contribute to the matter. He's racked up more than 600 penalty minutes in his NHL career, including postseason, and the officials might be keeping a closer eye on him when he's on the ice.

"It's something he's got to be aware of, but I also think he's got a bullseye on him," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "If I go back through all the penalties he's taken, he probably earned a couple and he probably earned them five years ago. That's something he's got to deal with. We want him to play hard. I think we can handle the ones where he's running people over. We'll kill those off. Obviously the stick penalties and stuff we don't want. But he's playing hard for the team. That's a good thing."

Said Shaw: "The referees, no matter the history of the player, should call the game as it is. If there's a penalty, call a penalty. If there's not a penalty, you let it go. I mean, yeah, I might have been too vocal in my younger days. But the past three years I've been trying to clean it up a little bit. I just take my penalties when I get 'em. But I must have dug myself a really deep hole. Just trying to climb out of it since."

Still, Shaw knows he has to be smarter about the timing of his penalties and where they're happening. The ones that occur in the offensive zone are the penalties that must be eradicated from his game. The ones he earns from battling between the whistles and sticking up for his teammates, the Blackhawks can live with those.

"Obviously I don't want to take penalties, I don't want to put my team down," Shaw said. "I also don't agree with all of the ones I got. I think I got the short end of the stick on a lot of them. Bite my tongue, go to the box. Our PK's been working hard and competing and killing some penalties. Hopefully they start going my way, I guess."

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Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

USA Today

Robin Lehner to start in goal for Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights

Robin Lehner will start in goal for the Blackhawks when they host the Vegas Golden Knights at the United Center on Tuesday, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after morning skate. It will be his third start of the season.

Lehner is coming off a game in which he stopped 37 of 39 shots for a save percentage of .949, which earned him the No. 3 star of the game in a 3-2 overtime win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. He was fantastic. 

Lehner is 1-0-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in two starts this season.

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