Five Things: A quiet captain in Blackhawks-Blues Game 7

Five Things: A quiet captain in Blackhawks-Blues Game 7

ST. LOUIS – The time ticked away for the Blackhawks a lot faster than normal this postseason.

Gone is the chance to win back-to-back Stanley Cups, something an NHL team hasn’t done in about 20 seasons. The Blackhawks were stunned and frustrated moments after their 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues, who eliminated them in seven games. For hockey fans, it was a thrilling series full of twists, turns and one-goal games. For the Blackhawks, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

But there it is nonetheless. So before we make that one final drive up Interstate 55, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to the Blues.

1. It’s a former teammate’s moment. Troy Brouwer joked on Sunday that his Game 7 record wasn’t the greatest; he was 2-4 entering this one. But he made up for that record with his game- and series-winning goal for the Blues. The Blues didn’t have much Game 7 experience coming into this one; certainly not compared to the Blackhawks. Brouwer, who won a Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, gave the Blues the big-game experience, and goal, the team needed. Said Brouwer on scoring the winner, “It means a lot to me. It means a lot to the team and the franchise. We've had a long, tough season and to see us get rewarded like this, especially against a division rival like the Hawks in such dramatic fashion, it’s all smiles around here right now.”

2. Tough series for Jonathan Toews. Last postseason, Toews had some of the team’s biggest goals at the most critical times (please see Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks in last spring’s Western Conference final). Toews had six assists in this series, but no goals. It was a surprise sight, considering Toews usually has a say in games like this. Toews said, “There’s always second-guessing and thinking what you could’ve done differently. I like to think I had my chances and times in the past. Kept telling myself, I think it was going to be an important time where I find a way to score a big one and right to the end I was telling myself that on those last draws in their zone. Just didn’t get to the puck. Obviously it’s kind of tough to think of what you could’ve done differently in those situations to alter the result.”

3. Andrew Shaw, Blackhawks leading scorer. Didn’t think you’d see that through the first round, did you? But there it was nonetheless. Shaw’s power-play goal in the second period gave him a team-leading four goals in his six games of this series – he was suspended for Game 5. Shaw can commit the bad penalties. He can also supply those greasy goals, and he did that plenty in the first round.

4. Andrew Ladd’s quiet postseason. When the Blackhawks acquired Ladd from the Winnipeg Jets, they knew what they were getting. They knew what he did in 2010 and hoped he would bring firepower in the postseason. But Ladd had just one goal and one assist and both of those came in Game 6. The combination of he and Toews was supposed to bolster the Blackhawks’ scoring. It didn’t.

5. Playing with fire too often. For the second consecutive time the Blackhawks trailed by two goals at some point. This time it was early, as the Blues took a 2-0 lead in the first 14 minutes of the game. Yes, the Blackhawks tied it in the second period. But they knew the Blues were going to come out strong, knew the Blues were going to try to prove they could finally best the Cup champions. The Blackhawks couldn’t dig their way completely out of this hole.

Blackhawks record 500th consecutive sellout at United Center

USA Today

Blackhawks record 500th consecutive sellout at United Center

The Blackhawks have had many ups over the last decade-plus, highlighted by three Stanley Cups. They've also had some downs recently, missing the playoffs for two seasons in a row after nine straight appearances.

But the fan support hasn't wavered.

On Monday against the Edmonton Oilers, the Blackhawks announced a crowd of 21,260, which became their 500th consecutive sellout at the United Center (436 regular season, 64 postseason). The NHL record is held by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are at 572 games and counting. 

The Blackhawks have led the league in attendance for 11 straight seasons, which started during the 2008-09 campaign.

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Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

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