(Photo: AP/ESPN)

Well, it looks like Chicago-dogs on are on the menu tonight. And, yes, I’m wearing the same Blackhawks shirt I wore Monday. Unwashed. And, different from those I wore for games one and two, when the Hawks’ 4-3 OT losses brought them down 0-2 to the St. Louis Blues.

The hot dog thing started last year, when I thought it was a good idea to eat Chicago-style food during the Blackhawks’ winning streak and playoff run. When hot dogs and wins became a pattern, it stuck, kind of like Quinoa Burgers for this guy.

Needless to say, they’ve been less than crave-worthy since the Cup was hoisted in Boston last year. (That’s a lot of games.) But, with regular dinners and wardrobe changes proving powerless through three overtimes in Game 1 and one overtime in Game 2, it was time to get (the grill) fired up.

I’m not saying for certain it worked, but Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews scored 4:10 into the game (assists: Duncan Keith, Sheldon Brookbank) going five-hole, wobbily, on goalie Ryan Miller.

The Hawks started playing like themselves again, not giving in to urges for physical play against historically aggressive rivals and even remaining focused on the win rather than retribution when Brookbank was boarded by Maxim LaPierre 7:10 into the second period.

Not surprising considering the Blackhawks of late, the team struggled offensively and couldn’t land another goal until an empty-netter from Marcus Kruger with 20 seconds left of play. Fortunately, they were able to hold the one goal lead with a powerful defense.

Corey Crawford, who was a bit hard on himself after the first two losses, made 34 saves for the shutout; and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya, and Michal Handzus served as shot-blocking machines.

“We’ve had a lot of penalty kills and it’s desperate times in the playoffs,” Hjalmarsson (who had 157 blocks in the regular season) said. “You really want to be able to do everything you can to prevent them [from scoring]. We’ve been killing a lot of penalties the first three games. You got to do what you got to do. I think we’ve been doing really good so far on the kill. Hopefully we can keep it going here.”

In fact, the Blues have only scored one Power Play goal in 16 chances so far this series, making them 15th in the league so far in the postseason.

The Blackhawks aren’t Power Play experts themselves (14th in the NHL for the playoffs), and couldn’t seal the deal with four opportunities Monday–including 30 seconds of a 5-0n-3. Power Plays haven’t been the strong point in a while for Chicago, where the Penalty Kill is second in the league to Boston for the postseason. St. Louis takes third.

Although David Backes was not on the ice for the Blues’ official morning skate today, Coach Ken Hitchcock told media, “He’s not going to play unless he’s healthy. So you never know. He could be skating in another rink. He could be doing something else. You don’t know that stuff. There’s a lot of rinks here in Chicago. He could be doing other things.

“He’s not going in the lineup unless he’s a player. If he’s a player, the way he plays is going to have a huge impact on the series. So if he skated somewhere else and is in fine-tune conditioning, you’ll see him tonight.”

“I wouldn’t evaluate our roster until you see it tonight. Put it in pencil, not pen.”

Likewise, Brenden Morrow is not expected to play for the rest of the series, with a lower body injury listed. He had a foot injury April 10, but played in Game 1 and Game 3.

The Blackhawks are being less secretive. They’re expecting the same lineup as Monday, where Toews and Patrick Kane teamed up on the first line, Brookbank stepped in for Brent Seabrook (now on game two of a three-game suspension), and goalie Corey Crawford.

 

Tonight’s players to watch in red:

  • Captain Serious Toews (1 goal, 2 assists) and Kaner (1 goal) to capitalize on their star power. Both players want more and will work to make it happen.
  • Ben Smith. Smitty had a bit of a streak going before playoffs, scoring goals April 3, 4, and 6.
  • Marian Hossa. He has 60 points in 72 games this year and he’s due for more.

And, in white/blue:

  • Alexander Steen. He moved up to the top line to take David Backes’ spot, and has 62 points from the regular season, with one goal and one assist in the series.
  • Kevin Shattenkirk has one goal and three assists in this series.
  • T.J. Oshie. The Olympic star has one goal and one assist in the series.

 

To stay afloat, the Blackhawks will need to up their offensive game. They need to shoot the puck. They’ve been outshot all three games so far (52-42 in Game 1, 31028 in Game 2, and 34-25 in Game 3). This team has plenty of scoring depth, and they need to use it. This isn’t the time for complicated passing plays. Their defense is good, but can be even better if the puck is at the other end of the rink. It’s time to get the biscuit in the big basket and fill the United Center with Chelsea Dagger as often as possible, Because It’s The Cup.

The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. CT today, then 7:00 p.m. CT Friday in St. Louis (barring any schedule changes).

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

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