The Blackhawks were used to writing the script when leading after two periods, and it usually included a very positive ending.
Well, on Sunday it didn’t. And with that, things have gotten very interesting in their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues. Are the Blues a different team this season? Do the Blackhawks have what it takes to come back in another playoff series? We’ll just focus on this game for now. So as we head out into what remains daylight, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Blues.
1. Costly penalties. The Blackhawks still haven’t taken many of them, but the Blues made them pay for two on Sunday. The first was Viktor Svedberg’s high-sticking, after which the Blues scored a power-play goal seven seconds later. The breaker, however, was Patrick Kane’s double-minor high-sticking late in the third period. The kill, which has been so much better lately, couldn’t contain the Blues. But Jonathan Toews said, “it’s playoff hockey. They’re hungry and they want to create on the power play. Sometimes it’s a matter of time before you let one in. You look at that four-minute one tonight, that’s something that can go one or two ways. We have to look at it as a big kill that we have to come up with and give our team momentum. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite get it.”
2. Brian Elliott shines again. Hey, you can’t say the Blackhawks didn’t test the Blues goaltender. But Elliott was stellar again on Sunday, especially in the second period when the Blackhawks fired 24 shots his way. The Blackhawks were looking for every way possible to beat Elliott in that period. Artem Anisimov did. Andrew Ladd did, too, but his shot hit both posts. The Blues got the necessary goals in the third period but Elliott’s help in keeping this one a one-goal game cannot be measured.
3. Oh, and Corey Crawford was damn good, too. I joked on Twitter that I’m no longer asking Crawford if he’s recovered from his upper-body injury. We get it: he’s just fine. Two of the shots he was beat on deflected off teammates. His multi-shot stop sequence in the second period was exhilarating. To Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, those stops had their effect at the time. “I thought those saves had a big impact on our emotional level. We were discouraged after that and I thought Chicago swung momentum [its] way. We were discouraged, a little bit down on the bench because of it.”
4. Brent Seabrook’s howitzer. We’ve said it often: Seabrook has a great shot and can’t take it enough. With that shot he gave the Blackhawks something they haven’t been used to in this series: the first lead. Seabrook, who took six shots on goal on Sunday, was also very physical. He finished with a team-high seven hits.
5. Not the same Blues team. One area where the Blackhawks have long had the postseason edge is mental toughness. Well the Blues showed a lot of it in Game 3. Down 2-1 after two, allowing a ton of shots, it didn’t matter. The Blues persevered and now have a lead in this series. Said Crawford, “whatever happens in the season, whatever’s happened in years before, [it is] not the same team.”