It was a tight, low-scoring game and in the end, the Chicago Blackhawks shut out the St. Louis Blues in a dramatic 2-0 victory. The last two games are in the past now as the Hawks played smart and disciplined, refusing to let the Blues get into their heads. Riding a red-hot Corey Crawford, the Hawks may have played their most important game in the playoffs so far.
The first goal was scored by the captain Jonathan Toews. The humid Chicago weather affected the ice, which benefited Toews as he scored a soft goal on Ryan Miller. The Blues shut the Hawks’ offense down for the next two periods, however. Not even two straight power play opportunities were enough to get a puck past Miller.
The Blues pressured late in the game, but the Hawks, despite playing not to lose, weathered the storm and cleared the puck for Marcus Kruger to finish it off on an empty-netter.
If there was such a thing as a “must-win”, I’d say this was it. If they were to have lost this game, 3-0 would have be a very difficult hole to climb out of. A 2-0 hole is a bit easier given both teams’ histories with two-game leads/deficits. The offense wasn’t the best, but remember, these Blues are still a good team and brought in Miller for a reason. That being said, there could have been a lot more aggression from the Hawks.
Of course, getting Toews and Patrick Kane together certainly helps. Still, one can’t talk about this game without mentioning the defense. Crawford stopped all 34 shots and Sheldon Brookbank was impressive while filling in for Brent Seabrook. I happen to think Crawford was being too hard on himself, but this performance definitely sealed the deal that he is an exceptional goalie.
Special mention goes to Nick Leddy, who saved a goal in the first period. Of course, you have to give credit where it’s due, as Michal Handzus was impressive on the penalty kill and defense. I still want him to be sat in favor of Peter Regin.
If there is one team in the NHL that can win four straight after losing two in a row, it’s the Blackhawks. It’s certainly not a favorable position, but it’s doable. If they can play like this every game, albeit with a better power play, offense and aggressiveness, they can most definitely pull it off. Just as importantly, the Hawks may have rattled the Blues’ cage. If they win on Wednesday night, then they certainly will have.