The Chicago Blackhawks kicked off their 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule in St. Louis for the second time in three seasons, so the two Central Division rivals took to the ice for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. This is what transpired from Scottrade Center.
The two teams started the game like a heavyweight battle, throwing small jabs without anything really connecting. Viktor Svedberg hooked Alex Steen to draw the first penalty of the game, but the Marcus Kruger-led penalty kill was up to the task. There wouldn’t be much 5-on-5 play after that with the Chicago Blackhawks drawing the next three penalties, even picking up a 5-on-3 for 36 seconds. But the St. Louis Blues defense put on a penalty-killing clinic, blocking seemingly every shot.
Corey Crawford was only really tested once in the first period, but he was up to the task. Unlike last year when the ’Hawks trailed 3-0 on the road after one period in Game 1, the ’Hawks were tied at 0 after one period on the road in this season’s first game.
The Chicago Blackhawks can claim the second period as a period of missed opportunities. The Blackhawks didn’t score on Brian Elliott when they picked up an early 2-on-1, as Jonathan Toews couldn’t beat the St. Louis goalie.
On a broken play later in the period, Artemi Panarin couldn’t handle a bouncing puck with Elliott out of position, and Toews collected the puck. He shot it and the rebound found Panarin, but again he couldn’t get the puck on the empty net. The Chicago Blackhawks outshot the Blues again in this frame, but when the horn sounded they had nothing to show for the domination of puck possession and shots.
The ’Hawks did catch a break when the St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz had an open net, but he shot it right into Toews’ skates. The ’Hawks again took a stupid penalty when Brandon Mashinter tripped up a Blues player at the end of the period, so the third frame started with the ’Hawks back on the penalty kill.
The third period started out with another solid penalty kill by the Chicago Blackhawks defense. The ’Hawks got a powerplay in the middle of the period when Patrick Kane was tripped up, but the powerplay really couldn’t get anything going. Chicago essentially dominated play in the third period, but there really weren’t too many scoring chances to show for it. There were only 10 shots compiled in this period, with the Blackhawks holding an 8-2 edge. As a result, we got overtime.
The Blackhawks started this frame in the best possible situation, as Blues defenseman Colton Parayko took a delay-of-game penalty seven seconds in. The powerplay once again was unable to convert, though it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Elliott had a close call or two on this one, but the Blackhawks just couldn’t find the twine.
Chicago ultimately held the shots advantage again in this period, but it wouldn’t matter. A strange play ended this game, as was very likely considering how tightly contested the action was. After the Blues were able to keep the puck in the offensive zone about halfway through the overtime, David Backes wound up with it about even with the goal line to Crawford’s right. Backes just threw the puck on net, despite a Blue not really being in the vicinity. Luckily for Backes and the Blues, Trevor van Riemsdyk was right in front of Crow. The puck caromed off TVR’s skate and through Crawford’s legs to end the contest.
The Blackhawks outshot the Blues 35-18 for the contest but walked out 1-0 losers. Considering the absence of Duncan Keith, this is a pretty good result as far as losses go. The Blackhawks seemed pretty upbeat after their defeat, but they also sensed they let a game get away.
Game 2 will take place Friday at Scottrade Center, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m.