(Photo: SportsnetCanada Youtube)
With a 3-2 win Friday night, the Blackhawks will head back to Chicago tied 1-1 in their best-of-seven series against the Blues. What started out fast-paced and evenly-matched as usual for the rivals turned into temper tantrums when goal reviews didn’t favor the home team–allowing the Blackhawks to capitalize and close.
Recap, reviews, reasoning
The first period was quiet save for a fruitless power play apiece. The Blackhawks only got two shots to the net while St. Louis managed seven.
But, with just under five minutes left in the second period, Michal Rozsival was wrangled into one of the worst kinds of turnovers–one that gets Vladimir Tarasenko the puck. Jori Lehtera wrestled the puck from Rozsival to Jaden Schwartz who fed Tarasenko for a top-shelf shot from the slot.
It wouldn’t take the Hawks long to answer, though. With about five seconds left before second intermission, Duncan Keith knotted the score with a one-timer from the blue line fed by Patrick Kane off a faceoff win by Captain Jonathan Toews with Andrew Shaw screening goalie Brian Elliott.
And then the third period happened.
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) April 16, 2016
Fabbri and the Blues were very unhappy with the call. They’d become even angrier by the next two.
Lehtera hustled after a puck chipped up the boards and passed it from the back of the net to Tarasenko, who fired it past goalie Corey Crawford for the apparent go-ahead goal with 7:46 left in regulation. But, the Blackhawks bench thought the play was offside. And, so did their video crew. So, Coach Joel Quenneville jumped on the boards to call a challenge.
After about 4-1/2 minutes of review, which now includes the benefit of blue line camera angles, the goal was overturned because Lehtera did not have a skate on the blue line when the puck passed the line.
NHL senior director of hockey operations Kay Whitmore said on NHL.com that, had the NHL not instituted blue-line cameras for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is likely that the replays would have been inconclusive, which would have meant a good goal for Tarasenko.
“The blue-line cameras situated right on the blue line gives you a true sight line of what’s actually happening,” Whitmore said of determining whether Lehtera’s skate entered the offensive zone before the puck. “Without those cameras, this would have been a tough call to make. You could probably say that the skate might have been in, but if there’s any doubt on the ice, then the original call has to stand.”
Whitmore said further:
“I think the initial purpose of an offside challenge was to rid the game of egregious calls where a player is a foot or two offside, but you can’t just do those one. If it’s offside, it’s offside, and this one was millimeters offside.
You just have to have as much technology as possible once you institute a rule like this. I think, like I said, there will be a debate probably for a long time [from] hockey purists about whether the intent of this rule was to take down goals like this, but maybe that’s a discussion for another day.
Did that skate in the air, does it have a real effect on what happened after that? You can argue that all day, but the rule is, it’s always been, you have to have your skate on the ice crossing the blue line. Until there’s a rule change, this is the way it’s going to have to be.”
Obviously riled up by the turn of events, Tarasenko slashed Shaw hard enough in their next shift together to shatter his stick. Despite attempts to refute the penalty, the evidence, again, was clear, and the Blackhawks had another power play.
So, with a man-advantage 4:19 left, Shaw set up shop near the net to screen and shook off a cross-check from Elliott before Kane passed to Brent Seabrook, who shot to the net for Shaw to rebound the puck past Elliott’s pads before being shoved into the goalie in what become a netfront melee. The goal was automatically reviewed to make sure the puck passed the goal line.
But then, Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock called for a challenge, calling for goaltender interference.
After nearly another 4-1/2 minutes, review confirmed a good goal–that Elliott was able to play his position and wasn’t touched until after the puck crossed the line, and then only so as a result of his own teammates’ shoving Shaw.
“What I felt I’d seen originally was pretty much confirmed on the overhead, that Shaw, he gets it with his hand, then reaches out after it goes off the side, makes a play on the puck,” Referee Dan O’Rourke said. “The contact is after the puck goes in, and it’s also with the help of [Blues defenseman Kevin] Shattenkirk pushing him.
“That’s how I felt I saw it on the ice, then also what was confirmed by the overall play at full speed, and then also the overhead really helped.”
Now down by one, the Blues pulled their goalie with about two minutes left to play.
Keith passed the puck to Artemi Panarin, who shot toward the empty net from his defensive zone with just enough oomph to beat the chasing Blues for a 3-1 lead.
But the Blues wouldn’t give up without a fight. With just two seconds left, Shattenkirk fired a shot off a Captain David Backes faceoff win for 3-2 score.
— Dan Mathews (@I_Bleed_Blue182) April 16, 2016
Alas, Chicago would walk away with the victory. They were outshot 31-29. They were outhit 41-25. (That’s right, the Blues fell short of Hitch’s proposed 70 by 29.) But the Hawks led faceoff wins 36-28, and they kept their composure.
The Blues didn’t leave it behind to finish the game or after.
Challenges and Conspiracies
In the postgame, Hitchcock accused the NHL of favoring the Blackhawks as last year’s champions:
“When you play the defending Cup champions you’re going to have to fight through a lot. Calls aren’t going to go your way. We’re playing a champion that’s the way it is. Tie goes to the runner.”
The attitude didn’t end with him, either. Even goaltender Elliott, who stopped 26 of 28 shots, criticized the officiating.
Elliott: ” I don’t know what the rules are anymore. Every play is so different. It’s up to the refs on the ice that makes the calls.
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) April 16, 2016
Paul Stastny came back with some logic.
“In Game 1, we had a good bounce to win a game,” he said of Backes’ Game One overtime winner. “Everything kind of finds a way to balance out.
“Everyone’s been there before. It’s not a young team here. We have experienced guys and that’s what happens in a playoff series. There’s highs and lows. If you worry too much about it, those are the teams that will be unsuccessful.”
The Blackhawks are no stranger to overturned goals at pivotal times.
Marian Hossa had a goal overturned this year with for the skate-off-the-ice offside rule.
In the Western Conference Semifinals in 2013, Niklas Hjalmarsson had a goal waved off because of coincidental minors far off from the play.
“In the playoffs, you have to have a short memory,” Hjalmarsson told the SunTimes. “You have to be able to keep playing the same way. You can’t let those moments get you off track, and focus too much on the refs and stuff like that.”
“In the playoffs, it’s a lot about momentum,” Hossa said. “We got a break, the new [challenge] rule finally worked out for us. We got a great challenge and the game basically changed.”
As for the time it takes to make the call, no one seemed to be particularly happy.
“It’s not easy,” Toews told media after the game. “It definitely is frustrating for both teams to have to wait that long. If we’re going to get the bounce we’ll wait as long as we have to, I guess. There’s no doubt that to a certain degree it takes a little bit away from the energy in the building.”
Back to Chicago
The Hawks should return excited to have taken one on the road and ready to make this a home ice advantage with their 2 p.m. start Sunday.
Crawford made 29 of 31 saves in Game Two, breaking a franchise record.
— Paul Roumeliotis (@PaulRoumel) April 16, 2016
He’ll need to maintain that poise at home, and the crowds should only benefit him.
They should try their best to work special teams and get their power play back to regular season condition. And, they’ll have to work the puck close to the net–using screener/deflector/rebounder/agitator Shaw. Cycling and shooting has only led to 32 total blocked shots from St. Louis in the first two games. But, putting pressure near the crease gave them their two occupied-net goals Friday.
“Absolutely huge momentum shift,” Kane told The Athletic. “You talk about goals in the first minutes of periods and goals in the last minute. To have a faceoff with 7 seconds left, (Toews) wins a draw, we get it back to Duncs and he made a great shot, but the whole play doesn’t happen if Shawzie doesn’t go to the net. Couple big plays by Shawzie tonight. Just standing in front, he gets rewarded with a goal and screens the goalie on the other one. We need more of that as the series goes on.”
They have to make a statement and come out on top.
Because it’s the Cup.
- 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 8:30 p.m. CT Thursday, April 21, CSN-CH, 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