The thing about this series is that so far, there hasn’t been a real “must-win”. Both teams are on the verge of knocking the other out at this point, and since the Chicago Blackhawks have won two straight, that puts them at an advantage. However, looking at the schedule, it becomes imperative that the Blackhawks win Game 5 against the St. Louis Blues.
Why? One word and one number: Game 7.
Game 5 would have been need-to-win if the NHL didn’t use the 2-2-1-1-1 playoff series format, but the format makes it all the more important. If the Blackhawks win tonight in Scottrade Center, they will have the opportunity to win the series at the United Center, thus avoiding a Game 7 in St. Louis. If the series went to a seventh game, the Blues would have the backing of a very energized crowd which could make the difference. By contrast, if the Hawks had the opportunity to clinch at home, they’d have their fans backing them.
But we could go on and on and on about home-ice advantage. At some point, the Hawks need to win a road game if they want to win the Stanley Cup. Their road record wasn’t the best, and unless they’re facing the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Finals, they’ll have to steal games on the road. Game 5 is the perfect opportunity to do so. They had their chances in Games 1 and 2, but if they play smart and aggressive, they’re more than capable of doing so.
Joel Quenneville certainly has his work cut out for him. The Blues have outplayed the Hawks all season at the Scottrade Center, which makes this game particularly difficult. But given that the Hawks won multiple need-to-win games on the road last year, this team is certainly capable of doing that. And if they keep playing the way they’ve been playing, then they’ll certainly have a chance.