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Breaking through: Blues best Blackhawks in Game 7 to end epic series

The Blues eliminated the defending champion Blackhawks in a Game 7 thriller in St. Louis to move on to the next round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They left us breathless, but the St. Louis Blues finally did it.

In an absolutely enthralling Game 7, Troy Brouwer’s ugly-beautiful 3-2 goal stood as the clincher against his former team in the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blues slayed one huge narrative dragon by dispatching the defending champions in a 4-3 series.

It’s one of those series we’ll likely deem a classic in retrospect.

(In an amusing twist, this is the Blues’ first Game 7 victory since - wait for it - Joel Quenneville was their coach.)

It’s fitting that this thrilling, dramatic series ended despite an extremely close call.

The Blues will take on the Dallas Stars in the second round. With the San Jose Sharks awaiting either the Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators, it’s a changing of the guard in the Western Conference and NHL in general.

St. Louis stormed off to a 2-0 lead before Marian Hossa made it 2-1 to end the first period. Chicago tied it 2-2 in a back-and-forth middle frame before a tight, exciting third period that went the Blues’ way.

The narratives flip flop in many ways. Brian Elliott gets some credit as a hero, capping a strong series with 31 saves. Ken Hitchcock is vindicated ... although plenty of people are still questioning his decisions regarding Vladimir Tarasenko’s ice time.

For at least one round, the “choker” talk subsides. Some might bring it right back up if they struggle against the Stars after taking all four games in their season series.

Who knows how many jobs were saved by this breakthrough?

What we do know: it will be tough to top Blues - Blackhawks, but it will be fun to watch the remaining teams try.