(Photo: Chicago Blackhawks Facebook)

For the fifth consecutive season, the Blackhawks‘ first postseason game went to overtime. Unfortunately for the visiting team, a Blues‘ blooper goal set them back 0-1 in the playoff series about halfway through the first OT period.

St. Louis won when Captain David Backes‘ cross-crease pass caromed off Chicago defenseman Trevor van Reimsdyk‘s skate and slipped past goalie Corey Crawford.

 


“Sometimes it just comes down to a bounce,” Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews said. “We didn’t get it tonight. But what are you going to do? You can’t dwell on that for too long. I think you take what you can from it and use the motivating factors in finding that emotion and playing better the next game. We’ll do that and focus on the next one.”

Otherwise the game was held by the two goalies.

The Blues’ Brian Elliott earned a 35-save shutout holding down five power plays including one five-on-three by the regular season second-place unit, halting a Toews and Patrick Kane two-on-one, and snatching a shot from a rushing Artemi Panarin with just over five minutes left in regulation.

Crawford stopped 17 of 18 shots, including knocking away a redirect from Kyle Brodziak in the first and scrambled to stop the tic-tac-oh-no of a Colton Parayko shot to Jaden Schwartz and off  Blackhawks defenseman Viktor Svedberg sequence.

“It’s unfortunate,” Toews said, “because we feel we had a lot of chances throughout that game to try and at least get the upper hand or distance ourselves in that one and we didn’t quite get a goal.

“At the end of the day, it’s a tough game to come in and play, the first game of the playoffs in their building. I think we did a lot of good things. Unfortunately we didn’t get the result we wanted.”

Strategy

The Blues played regular season hockey Wednesday night. Their primal instinct to hit–outnumbering the Hawks 41-24–left them down in shots 35-18.

Their strategy was deliver hits, primarily at the Hawks’ depleted defense.

In postgame Wednesday, Coach Ken Hitchcock said the Blues’ 41 hits weren’t enough.

“We’re going to have to get that it into the 70s,’’ he said. “We passed on hits because of the pace.’’

Perhaps Hitch stopped watching hockey once the Blues were out last year–he must have missed the Ducks’ fatal hit them into submission strategy failure last Western Conference Finals when Ducks Center Ryan Kesler said “no human could withstand that many hits” and the Blackhawks, down 341-233 in hits, left Game 7 with the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

It is important to note the Blackhawks don’t have the same defense as last year, but they do prioritize puck possession and know that the force of delivering a hit takes a toll on a body as well.

 

 

If Game One is any indication, despite nine power plays, officials have a “let them play” approach when it comes to cross-checks and hits, so the Hawks will have to be prepared to absorb and not retaliate.

What’s next

It won’t be surprising for the shot versus hit numbers to remain the same for the series. And that will put the Blackhawks at an advantage with the return of Duncan Keith, as long as he maintains composure with a team reputed for getting under skin.

He deserved that punishment, but it certainly hurt his teammates and he has something to prove when he comes back.

“Guys have taken runs at me. You deal with it. Kaner deals with it very well. Not the biggest guy, but try to find a way to get through that, do what you have to do and play your game. Don’t focus on those type of things. Focus is on the game, competing,” Keith said. “When it comes to the suspension, that’s something I can be in control of and need to do and be smart about that.”

Since February, the Blackhawks have lost 13 straight games to Western Conference teams. It isn’t exactly a confidence booster going into Game Two.

They’ll need to utilize Keith’s skill set and minutes for defense. He’ll likely be paired with Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was a shot-blocking machine in Game One. More than once he hobbled off the ice in pain only to return for the next shift.

“It looks like you need five stretchers on the bench and he just gets back up,” Hitchcock said of Hjalmarsson.

 

Goals

The Hawks need to turn on the offense. They’ll have to go for gritty goals with all that puck possession to get past the Blues’ shot blockers.

“I think we played a really good road game, one of our better games in a long time,” Hjalmarsson told the SunTimes. “So I think we’re all pretty happy with the way we played [in Game 1]. We could’ve scored some goals too, but we’re playing a good team and we know that.

“They have four really, really solid lines and three really solid d-pairings–so we’re going to have to work hard and get our goals.”

Toews, who tied his playoff high seven shots on goal, noted that the team had plenty of chances to score against Elliott, but couldn’t deliver against the solid netminder. He prioritized keeping the goalie as busy as possible.

“We’ve done it before. We just have to focus on that a little bit more. I think all four lines can generate a little bit more around the net,” he said. “We know it’s only going to get tougher. We have to raise our game. But for the most part, it’s an effort we can build on.”

The Blackhawks lines will likely be: new dad Andrew Ladd (his wife, Brandy gave birth to their third child, Walker Gordon Ladd, Thursday, after he flew from St. Louis to Chicago and back to be with her during labor Wednesday) with Toews and Marian Hossa; Panarin with Artem Anisimov (Wednesday’s faceoff win leader for the Hawks) and Kane; Brandon Mashinter with Teuvo Teravainen and Tomas Fleischmann; and Andrew Desjardins with Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw.

Shaw and Hossa are alleged to be playing through injuries that had them sitting for the end of the regular season.

This isn’t time to push a panic button, but if there is a “power” button, or “turbo boost,” or one of those pull-strings somewhere, someone should probably switch/push/pull.

Or maybe Kane should just do the darn mullet already. Sorry, bud, but your flow game isn’t that strong, anyway. Take one for the team.

 


The Blackhawks have come back from a 2-0 series deficit with the Blues before, but surely they’ll be hoping to take one on the road now for a little cushion. It would help my blood pressure, at least.

They know every goal, every second counts.

Because it’s the Cup.

 

 

 

Remaining Schedule

  • Game 2: Chicago at St. Louis 7:00 p.m. CT Friday, April 15, NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
  • Game 3: St. Louis at Chicago 2:00 p.m. CT Sunday, April 17, NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
  • Game 4: St. Louis at Chicago 8:30 p.m. CT Tuesday, April 19, NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sportsnet
  • Game 5: Chicago at St. Louis, Thursday, April 21, if needed, TBA
  • Game 6: St. Louis at Chicago, Saturday, April 23, if needed, TBA
  • Game 7: Chicago at St. Louis, Monday, April 25, if needed, TBA

 

 

(As always, click the bold links for more info, fun facts, and/or videos.)

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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