It was like the 2013 Stanley Cup Final all over again. Unfortunately, it didn’t go the way it should have. The Chicago Blackhawks lost to the St. Louis Blues in triple overtime by the score of 4-3 on a goal by Alexander Steen. While it’s only the first game in the series and playoffs for both teams, there were troubling aspects to the Blackhawks’ game that need to be addressed as soon as possible.
The Hawks fell behind early, but took a 3-2 lead thanks to Patrick Kane — who did not look exhausted, despite what someone else says — but they played it far too safe in the third period, playing a prevent defense (which almost never works, no matter what sport) which allowed the Blues to tie the game with just over 100 seconds in the third period left and then the aforementioned Alex Steen goal 26 seconds into the third OT period.
I was afraid the Hawks’ OT struggles would come back to bite them, and it turns out that was the case. Despite several chances, the Hawks could not get the puck past Ryan Miller in overtime. The best chance was a shot by Kris Versteeg that was blocked by Max Lapierre. The other problem was the Hawks’ power play, which despite multiple chances, could only get one in the net, and it was by Brent Seabrook (assisted by Versteeg).
The other problems lie with the defense. It was a defensive lapse that allowed Jaden Schwartz and Steen to score the tying and winning goals, respectively. Other blame has to lie with Michal Handzus. Yes, head coach Joel Quenneville likes him and he can play defense, but he’s far too slow and holds up the offense. It was because of a defensive lapse by him that allowed Adam Cracknell to score the first goal of the game.
I hate to say it, but Handzus is done. He was horrible during that game. He’s not the only one to blame, but he’s no Marian Hossa. He’s too over the hill to continue as a regular and must be benched as soon as possible. Sadly, Quenneville won’t make any lineup changes.
However, credit has to go to Corey Crawford, who stood on his head multiple times, keeping the Hawks and Blues tied throughout two overtimes. If there are doubts about Crawford, they’ve been put to rest.
No doubt the Hawks will want to forget about this game. They made too many mistakes that they’ll need to fix and they’ll need to find the motivation to win what is going to be a very tough series.