For the second time since 2016, the Blackhawks and Blues will meet in Game 7 of a first round matchup. In 2016, the Blues jumped out to a 3-1 series lead, the Hawks fought back to force a Game 7, only for St. Louis to fight off the comeback attempt and advance in the playoffs. This time around, it was the Blackhawks holding a 3-1 lead only to find themselves in a seventh game after the Blues won back-to-back overtime thrillers.
Coach Jeremy Colliton mixed up the lines in an effort to give his offense a jolt, re-uniting the “nuclear option” of Dominik Kubalik, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane on the top line. Will the line changes finally get Kane going and spark the Blackhawks to a huge upset?
Game 7: Blackhawks at Blues (April 21)
Result: Blues win 5-2 (STL wins series 4-3)
First Star: Ryan O’Reilly (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG, +2, 10-15 FO)
Second Star: Jaden Schwartz (2 G, 5 SOG, +2)
Third Star: Jordan Binnington (30 Saves)
If this series is any indicator of how the rest of the playoffs will go, O’Reilly could be well on his way to another Conn Smythe award. He finished the series with five goals and three assists, scoring the game-winner while adding in assist in Game 7. Each goal seemingly came at an important juncture.
Schwartz followed up his overtime winner in Game 6 with a two-goal performance in Game 7 and really turned it on in the latter portion of the series to help fuel the Blues’ comeback win.
2:17 Jaden Schwartz (C. Gunnarsson, B. Schenn) 1-0
15:32 Alex DeBrincat (D. Caggiula, D. Keith) 1-1
10:58 Ivan Barbashev (Z. Sanford, M. Scandella) 2-1
11:21 Adam Boqvist (D. Strome, D. Keith) 2-2
15:06 PP Ryan O’Reilly (B. Schenn) 3-2
2:49 Jaden Schwartz (R. O’Reilly, A. Pietrangelo) 4-2
19:47 Jonathan Toews (B. Saad, A. DeBrincat) 2-2
19:50 Robert Thomas (Unassisted) 5-2
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Shots on goal
St. Louis: 30
It wasn’t a bad effort from the Blackhawks, but in the end the Blues depth was just a little more impactful. The Blackhawks took the “nuclear option” with their line combinations but the Kubalik-Toews-Kane trio was shut down, not generating any goal scoring in Game 7.
Your best players need to stand out in Game 7s. The Blues got that from O’Reilly and Schwartz; the Hawks did not from Kane and Toews.
Corey Crawford 25/29, .862 SV% (2.84 GAA, .890 SV% in series)
Jordan Binnington 30/32, .938 SV% (2.97 GAA, .899 SV% in series)
While Crawford starred in Games 2-4, Binnington a force in Games 5-7, recording an amazing .942 SV% against the underdog Blackhawks. It’s not that Crawford was bad late in the series, but Binnington played at a Conn Smyth level and was the biggest difference between the two teams.
Chicago: 0-1 (0-9 in series)
St. Louis: 1-1 (5-9 in series)
If there is ever a perfect example for how important special teams are in the playoffs, look no further than this series. The Blackhawks took the West’s best on the brink of elimination and had it tied 2-2 late on the road in Game 7 without recording a single power play goal in the series. Had they just been minimally better on both special teams, it’s very likely we would be previewing their second round matchup right now instead of wondering what could have been.
Chicago: Alex DeBrincat
St. Louis: Jordan Binnington
Despite O’Reilly’s huge performance, Alex DeBrincat led all scorers this series. After slumping much of the regular season, The Cat shined with the lights on bright, chipping in three goals and seven assists for the Hawks in his first playoff action.
While Chicago might not be advancing this season, DeBrincat’s performance bodes well for what's to come from the budding star in future playoff series. As for the Blues, you could have picked O’Reilly and it would be hard to disagree, but Binnington’s effort in Games 5-7 ultimately decided the series.
The Hawks still found ways to win Games 2-4 with O’Reilly buzzing, but when Binnington turned it on late in the series, the Hawks had no answers. Chicago has some positives to build on heading into the offseason, but no doubt there will be some wondering of what could have been after squandering their 3-1 series lead.
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