No professional hockey team likes to fall behind two games to zero in a Stanley Cup playoff series. For the Chicago Blackhawks, there’s probably no team more frustrating to trail 2-0 than the St. Louis Blues, arguably the Blackhawks’ harshest rival over the last few years.
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But that’s where the men in the Indian Head found themselves in their 2014 first-round matchup with the champion wannabes after a pair of losses at The Dumpster, aka Scottrade Center. The losses were both 4-3 overtime defeats, so Blackhawks fans may have been worried heading into Game 3 that the nature of the losses would have a devastating effect on the team.
Not so much, as we’ll see today in our next entry on the countdown of most memorable playoff wins under coach Joel Quenneville.
Note: Check out the previous entries in this series at the end of this post.
No. 52: 2014 Western Conference first round, Game 3
Chicago Blackhawks 2, St. Louis Blues 0
Looking at this Blues team’s roster is stomach curdling. It’s essentially the same reaction we might’ve had to Vancouver’s roster in 2009 or 2010. Barret Jackman, Max Lapierre, Brenden Morrow, T.J. Oshie, Steve Ott, Roman Polak, Chris Porter, Ryan Reaves, Adam Cracknell. And led by the ultimate clown of a captain, David Backes, who didn’t play in this game (or any of Chicago’s wins in this series) due to an injury on a high hit from Brent Seabrook in Game 2.
How did this team beat the Blackhawks twice? Thankfully, we didn’t have to ask how the Blues won four times, because the Blackhawks ensured that wouldn’t happen. Specifically, Corey Crawford ensured it wouldn’t happen.
Da Windy City
After the Blackhawks got out of their element in Game 2 by committing 51 minutes worth of penalties, they stayed focused on the goal of wiping out the Blues in Game 3 and beyond. The only goal the Blackhawks would need in this one came off the stick of Jonathan Toews a little more than four minutes into the contest. Duncan Keith took a hit in neutral ice to make a pass to Toews, who skated just above the circle to The Great Greasy Hope Ryan Miller’s right and flicked a shot toward Miller. The puck flittered through the goaltender’s 5-hole for a soft but readily accepted 1-0 Chicago lead.
Not surprisingly, the Blues got their first good chance when Vladimir Tarasenko made a play about seven minutes into the opening period. (Side note: If Tarasenko isn’t the team’s captain within the next three years, St. Louis’ front office is even more foolish than we’d already believed.) The Russian stripped Niklas Hjalmarsson of the puck behind Crawford and flung it to Vladimir Sobotka in the slot. Sobotka had a decent amount of net to shoot at with Crawford looking the wrong way, but he wired a shot wide of everything to keep the Blues down.
Not long later, Michal Rozsival lost a puck along the boards to Patrik Berglund, who proceeded to carry it behind Crawford and attempt a wraparound. A sprawling Crawford and a stationary Nick Leddy combined to keep the net empty. Crawford then had to pad away a Tarasenko wrister off a faceoff win just a minute after Berglund’s bid.
Two of Chicago’s three penalties in this game came in the first period, requiring Crawford to make some nice stops, including on a tip by Oshie in front off a slapper by Jordan Leopold.
Who would have guessed the next good chance would be created by Rozsival? Just inside Chicago’s defensive zone with about four minutes to go in the first, he wired a stretch pass to Patrick Kane, who blew through St. Louis’ defense and put a backhander on Miller. In tight, however, he couldn’t do much to elevate.
The blur at the bottom of the screen is the passing target. That’s how he looked to people at the UC, too. (Screenshot from YouTube)
The part where the Blues think they’ve got Kane trapped. (Screenshot from YouTube)
The part where the Blues realize they don’t have Kane locked down at all. (Screenshot from YouTube)
Crawford got a little help a short time later after Sheldon Brookbank (remember him?) turned the puck over to Alexander Steen in the defensive zone. Crawford and Keith failed to communicate, resulting in Keith needing to stop a shot from Steen at an open net. But Crow made up for the flub with multiple good saves on another St. Louis powerplay before the period ended.
These two teams traded plenty of chances in the second period, many with traffic in front of Crawford and Miller. Good sticks from defensemen and forwards proved beneficial throughout this game, and several times a player appeared to have a good chance but was too far past the net or at too awkward an angle to get a good shot off.
The Blackhawks did have a 5-on-3 powerplay very late in the middle period, but they couldn’t cash in, with Marian Hossa providing the best chance that was stopped by Miller’s pad.
The third period was mostly St. Louis, with Crow needing to make a few more big stops. The Blackhawks provided a little push late in the frame, with the line of Kris Versteeg, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad nearly creating a dirty goal with about three minutes remaining.
It’d be all about Crow at the end, though. St. Louis’ net was empty with a minute remaining, and Crawford’s first big stop of the empty-net period came on Alex Pietrangelo, who flicked a shot from the point and through traffic, forcing Crow to move to his left and lunge with the glove for a save.
Marcus Kruger would wind up icing this game when Saad beat everyone to a cleared puck behind the empty Blues net. He wrapped it around for Kruger, who got just enough while being pushed to the ice by Berglund. Crawford’s reaction to the goal was pretty fantastic.
Maybe he just has Rise Against playing inside his mask. (Screenshot from YouTube)
With the win, the Blackhawks cut the Blues’ series lead in half and got a little bit of momentum going. The Blues put 34 shots on Crawford, and he turned them all away. This game was pretty sloppy by Chicago standards, but beating St. Louis is always worth a certain level of memorability.