The Chicago Blackhawks came into Game Three of their Stanley Cup Playoffs opening round matchup with the St. Louis Blues riding the momentum train after a 3-2 win in St. Louis in Game Two. An early goal from Brent Seabrook continued the momentum for Chicago as Game Three commenced at the United Center, but a 2-1 lead for the Blackhawks heading into the third period wouldn’t be enough as the Blues used two unanswered goals from Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz to up-end the Blackhawks and take a 2-1 series lead.
As if the case with many Stanley Cup Playoff games, there are tons of thoughts and takeaways once the final horn sounds. Here are the three most prominent thoughts I have, now that the Blackhawks officially trail in the series heading into Game Four.
1. Corey Crawford can only save the Blackhawks for so long
The Blackhawks have been getting tremendous goaltending from Corey Crawford throughout the first three games of the series. Something that was in question just days prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when Crawford was ailing from a head-injury and missed 11 of the final 12 games of the regular season.
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St. Louis has peppered Crawford for 85 shots through the first three games (18, 31, 36) with Crawford making 79 saves total. Of the six goals that Crawford has allowed, three have been by way of ‘unfortunate’ bounces.
The Game One winner from David Backes was a cross-ice pass that bounced off of a defender and in. In Game Three on Sunday afternoon, Colton Parayko‘s goal redirected off of Tomas Fleischmann‘s stick and Berglund’s goal redirected twice on Crawford after hitting Michal Rozsival‘s shin and then skipping off the ice and over the glove side.
Take into consideration this chart from Blackhawks Breakdown on Twitter:
Crawford has been bailing the Blackhawks out in many ways through three games. If the quality of scoring chances continues the way it has for the Blues, the ‘puck luck’ excuse may run sour for why the Blackhawks are allowing goals.
2. The Blackhawks need secondary scoring from their primary players
Through the first three games of the series, the Blackhawks have gotten point production from:
- Patrick Kane – 3 Pts (0 Goals, 3 Assists)
- Brent Seabrook – 2 Pts (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
- Jonathan Toews – 2 Pts (o Goals, 2 Assists)
- Artemi Panarin – 2 Pts (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
- Duncan Keith – 2 Pts (1 Goal, 1 Assist)
- Artem Anisimov – 1 Pt (1 Goal)
- Andrew Shaw – 1 Pt (1 Goal)
While Kane, Seabrook, Keith, and Toews, the names you would expect to be on the list, are on that list, the Blackhawks haven’t been able to generate much goal-scoring from top players like Toews, Kane, Andrew Ladd, and Marian Hossa. Players that are going to be looked at as the primary source for goal-scoring and goal-scoring chances.
The Blackhawks understand that secondary scoring from secondary players will happen, but the primary guys need to chip-in as well if the Blackhawks expect to not only pull-even with the Blues, but also pull ahead in the series. Chicago cannot expect the same guys to time and time again bail them out or come up big when the team needs someone to step up.
No Stanley Cup is won by just one or two players.
3. Brian Elliot can’t save what he can’t see
I poke fun at Eddie Olczyk for saying, on a nightly basis during a Blackhawks broadcast, that “To score goals in this league, you have to get to the front of the net and always have your stick on the ice.” Without fail, you can hear him say that exact phrase or a similar variation of it twice, maybe three times a game.
But you know what? He’s 100 percent right. (And not just for the NHL. I score goals in my pickup league games, exclusively by sitting in front of the goalie and flailing wildly at rebounds.)
The Blackhawks have scored just five goals in the series with the Blues so far. One was an empty-net goal by Panarin, so really just four goals in three games. To sum it up, Brian Elliott is playing really, really good. “So what do the Blackhawks have to do Edzo?” (See above quote)
Chicago must take away Elliott’s ability to see what is coming at him. He has made 105 saves on the Blackhawks 109 total shots in the three games so far. So we must look to the four goals that have been scored:
- Game Two
- Duncan Keith scores on a blast from the blue-line with Andrew Shaw right in front of Elliott.
- Brent Seabrook puts a puck on net and it’s Andrew Shaw right in front of Elliott again to bury his own rebound
- Game Three
- Brent Seabrook blasts one passed Elliott with major help from a screen by Andrew Ladd.
- Artem Anisimov scored on a great pass from Artemi Panarin from the corner without much help of a screen, but he was alone in front.
All four goals have either a screen player or the actual goal-scorer right in front of Brian Elliott. The Blackhawks can out-shoot the Blues all they want, but if the scoring chances aren’t quality chances and aren’t giving Elliott fits because he can’t see them coming, the Blackhawks are going to end up just like they did in 2012 against the Arizona Coyotes and their goaltender Mike Smith: Close games that could have gone any way, but the shots from the outside weren’t enough to beat Smith.
So what do you think? Are you feeling panic or calm as the Blackhawks trial in the series after three games? Let us know in the comment section below and let us know what your takeaways are from Game Three and the series in general, so far!
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