Blues' season will be defined by Game 7: 'It's our turn to answer'

Blues' season will be defined by Game 7: 'It's our turn to answer'

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said before Game 6 that he doesn't care when or where they beat the Blackhawks in the first round. He just wants it to happen, period.

Kevin Shattenkirk agreed but obviously preferred to end it in Chicago because there's no point in giving the defending Stanley Cup champions another day to fight.

Well, they did, and now the series is headed back to St. Louis for a Game 7 on Monday night in perhaps the most important game in St. Louis' franchise history to date.

"It's important that you take the positives out of this and you realize what went wrong and you fix it, and you focus on the task ahead," Scottie Upshall said following Saturday night's 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks. "It's a big game Monday. We're excited. It's going to be a big game for our organization, for our team, we're all going to step up."

The Blackhawks got on the scoreboard first Saturday thanks to an Andrew Ladd goal, his first of the playoffs. But it was a short-lived lead, as the Blues responded right back like they have all series long.

Upshall scored less than three minutes later, which opened the flood gates for the Blues. Alex Pietrangelo — his first of the series — and Vladimir Tarasenko — his fourth of the postseason — each found the back of the net, capping off a three-goal unanswered spurt in a span of 4:42.

The surge had a sellout United Center crowd of 22,260 thinking they'd be packing it in early for the summer, something Chicago isn't used to.

But that thought didn't last too long.

Artem Anisimov scored his third goal of the postseason on the power play to cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 3-2, and they didn't look back. 

Trevor van Riemsdyk and Dale Weise each netted their first goals of the playoffs to put the Blackhawks back on top, and it was enough to take the wind out of the Blues' sails.

"There's a reason they've won a lot of hockey games and championships," Hitchcock said. "They raised their level a little bit in the second period. They were desperate, we didn't match it. They got that advantage, that fourth goal that got the lead, and they were able to keep us pretty much on the outside in the third period.

"That's what you've got to fight through if you're going to win, you've got to fight through that stuff."

The entire television timeout that followed the game-tying goal evoked a standing ovation, pumping energy back into the building and, most importantly, the Blackhawks.

"I think it was the loudest I've ever heard the United Center," said Andrew Shaw, who returned from his one-game suspension by potting a third-period goal. "We built off that and came out and had a few more goals."

Shaw's power-play goal with 3:07 remaining in regulation put the game out of reach, and Marian Hossa's empty-netter sealed the deal, putting the Blues in a backs-against-the-wall situation the Blackhawks have already been in for the last two games.

"They played great, but we were hesitant in our game," Upshall said. "We just didn't do the simple things, and they jumped on us. They had a great second. They played desperate, they did what they had to do and now we're in a spot where we got home ice Game 7 to determine our season."

The Blues' season will be defined by how they respond in Game 7.

They've been eliminated in the first round in three straight postseasons, and a fourth straight first-round exit would be enough to justify a drastic change in the offseason. A series win would indicate a break-through mentally and push the ball closer to a Stanley Cup.

This is their best shot to make it happen, and it's all up to the Blues to prevent history from repeating itself.

"They raised the bar for a period. OK? So now it's our turn to answer," Hitchcock said. "We've worked hard all year to get to this, and we've got an opportunity in front of us. I really want to see us take advantage of it, but we're going to need people to play better. We need our whole team to play better. If we do that, then I like our chances."

And what better way to do it than in front of their own fans?

"We worked 82 games this year to get that home ice," Pietrangelo said. "If there’s a time to use it it’s right now."

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks


Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:


Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”


The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.


Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.


The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'


Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.