By Jake Shoemaker
The Chicago Blackhawks will not repeat last year’s record unbeaten streak to start this season. In defeating the Blackhawks in regulation, St. Louis did what it took NHL teams 25 games to do in 2013. While most of St. Louis undoubtedly had their eyes on the Cardinals’ playoff baseball game, the Blues continued their winning ways.
In front of an electric crowd that created a playoff-like atmosphere in the third game of the season for both teams, the game started, fittingly, with a fight just a few minutes in. Sheldon Brookbank squared off against St. Louis’ gritty forward, Chris Stewart, in a fight that was a microcosm of the game – a back and forth battle that ultimately ended up with a narrow Blues victory.
St. Louis drew first blood near the end of the first period when Patrick Bergland intercepted a pass at center ice and distributed the puck up to a streaking Vladimir Tarasenko for the goal. Virtually undefended, Tarasenko buried a wrister as Chicago’s defense played the pass instead of shutting down the shooter.
The two teams went on to trade off goals, all on the power play, with St. Louis maintaining its lead for 75 seconds in the first period and just 39 seconds in the second period. Chicago’s quick responses noticeably increased the anti-Blackhawk sentiment in the building, keeping the crowd alive and hungry for more goals. St. Louis eventually netted an even strength game winner with 22 seconds remaining.
Alexander Steen’s game winner came on an odd-man rush, much like St. Louis’ first goal. A quick breakout by Jaw Bouwmeester caught 4 Blackhawks chasing the play, ultimately leading to a 3 on 1. Corey Crawford, yet again, was left out to dry.
The main takeaway from the game is quite simple: Chicago and St. Louis, two of the NHL’s premier teams, are evenly matched and should battle for the Western Conference crown. The fact that St. Louis held a lead for just over two minutes over the course of the entire game, despite winning 3-2, shows the resilient nature of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks.
St. Louis will look to continue its winning ways at home, Saturday, against the New York Rangers, while the Blackhawks will look to rebound against the New York Islanders back in Chicago on Friday. The Blackhawks and Blues will face each other 4 more times this year, 3 times in Chicago and once in St. Louis.