The Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions, have full-on earned the right to skate and play with an air of confidence and arrogance. While they have earned the right, that air has put them in a 2-0 opening series deficit after the St. Louis Blues stormed back to pull out a 4-3 overtime thriller in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series.
There is ample talent weaved throughout this Blackhawks roster. To think this air of being untouchable would manifest itself in the form of offensive creativity would be a logical conclusion. However, this is not the case. Rather, the Blackhawks are intent to get as many cheap shots in against the opposing Blues, no matter the amount of time spent on the penalty kill, thinking this strategy won’t come back to bite them.
The strategy bit them hard Saturday afternoon. With the Blackhawks leading 3-2 in the third period, Duncan Keith, Bryan Bickell and Brent Seabrook decided to test fate with foolish penalties. As the saying goes, third time was the charm for the Blues as Vladimir Tarasenko sniped the tying goal on the power play with seven seconds remaining in regulation as Chicago attempted to kill a five-minute major after Seabrook was rightfully ejected for launching himself (and his shoulder-elbow) into the face of the unsuspecting David Backes.
Not only did that penalty change the outlook of Game 2, but the repercussions will surely be felt in the remaining games of the series. Make no mistake, the hit is absolutely worthy of suspension. Seabrook will probably get off with a one-game suspension seeing as he is a first-time offender.
Think Seabrook’s absence in Game 3 will only affect him? Not a chance. Aside from the increased workload his Blackhawks teammates will be forced to shoulder, the Blackhawks skill players, specifically one who is visibly nursing an injured shoulder in the form of Jonathan Toews, will need to have their head on a swivel in the upcoming games as the Blues may look to return the favor of the Backes hit in “an eye for an eye” fashion.
Keep in mind, this St. Louis team is stacked with size and grit throughout the lineup. It is the main reason why players like Keith, Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson have resorted to bush league cross checks and slashes throughout the opening games of the series. Coinciding with the series reaching a boiling point, thanks to the 2-0 series lead and the Seabrook hit, Chicago will not be able to get away with this type of chippy play in Game 3 as the referees will no doubt be ordered to keep things in check, before they get out of hand.
Barret Jackman‘s Game 2 overtime winner puts all the pressure of this series firmly on the Blackhawks. Chicago now faces a must-win Game 3 Monday at the United Center if they hope to crawl back into the series. While the pressure to win the game will be at the front of the Blackhawks’ minds, payback could lurk just behind it.
A combination of the two may be all St. Louis needs to open up a commanding 3-0 series lead.