When the first round playoff match-ups were finally set, I knew right away that the Blackhawks and Blues series would be the best one in the first round. The teams didn't disappoint.
Game one and two opened up in St. Louis, and the fans were treated to two exciting Blues wins. It didn't get much better than game one either. In a game that would go back and forth, the fans would get their money's worth as the game would end very early into the third overtime. Alexander Steen would be the game one hero, but this game would set the pace for this exciting series.
Then came the controversy in game two. St. Louis Blues captain David Backes (Spring Lake Park, MN/ Minnesota State Mankato) would take an elbow to the head from Blackhawk defender Brent Seabrook, knocking him out for the rest of game two, along with games three and four. Seabrook wold get a three game suspension for the hit, but left both fan bases with a sour taste in their mouths. St. Louis would now be down their captain, and Chicago is out of their top defenseman.
Chicago just kept pushing forward, even though they were down 2-0 in the series, but now had the advantage of being back in the Madhouse on Madison. With Chicago looking to get into the win column, and would do that via a Corey Crawford shutout. Captain Jonathan Toews would net the game's first goal, and the game winner, just 4:10 into the first period, and the game would become a very grinding defensive battle. Marcus Kruger would get the insurance empty netter to seal the 2-0 victory
Overtime would be needed once again in game four, in another contest that could have gone either way. The Blackhawks scored the first two in the contest, Andrew Shaw and Patrick Kane, but the Blues would push back and score three unanswered and Vladimir Tarasenko putting the Blues ahead 3-2 with about 7:30 left in regulation. However, the Chicago never say die attitude kicked in, and would get a few good looks at goalie Ryan Miller before Bryan Bickell would tie the game with just under four minutes to play, and the roof went off at the Madhouse. They now had the crowd on their side going into overtime and used it to their advantage. Half way through the first overtime, Patrick Kane and Ben Smith would have a rush up the ice int the offensive zone with Patrick Kane taking the puck up the left wing. Smith would charge the net, drawing the defenders off of Kane so he could take the shot, and he buried it for the winner in another very exciting game in the series that is now tied and headed back to St. Louis.
The story line for game five would be the return for Blues captain David Backes after missing the previous two games due to injury after the Seabrook elbow. Probably not playing at 100%, just having the presence of your captain in your line up can be enough to spark a locker room. That's exactly what the Blues needed after losing two straight in Chicago. Once again, this game would take overtime to find a winner in this very tightly battled series. Once again, the Blackhawks would look at their captain to come in clutch in overtime. Toews would get sprung on a breakaway and would slide the puck behind Miller to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 series lead, and put them in complete control going into game six.
Today's game was just straight up Chicago Blackhawks domination once the third period came around. Bryan Bickell and TJ Oshie would exchange goals in the first and that's the score that would hold up until very early in the third period. The Blues completely outplayed the Blackhawks in the second, but most of that was due to the Hawks penalty box door being open the whole period, but couldn't find a way to put the puck behind Crawford. At the end of the second, the Blackhawks would finally get their first power play opportunity, which would carry over to the start of the third. Just 44 seconds into the final frame, who else, but Jonathan Toews would light the lamp and put the Hawks up 2-1. There was no looking back from there. Chicago would rattle of three more goals off of the sticks of Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw, and Duncan Keith, to solidify a 5-1 game six victory and a 4-2 series win.
If I got anything out of this series, is that the Blackhawks have their playoff form from last year. This team is dangerous and has all of the tools for a repeat. The Hawks can sit back and relax for a short time and see whether they draw the Wild or Avalanche in round two.
As for the Blues, a lot of people thought that this was a team that could go deep into the playoffs this year, especially after how strong they were in the regular season, and in games one and two. However, late season injuries, and a semi struggling Ryan Miller cost the Blues and sent them home to the golf course earlier then they would have liked.
Overall, this was a very exciting, physical, fast, and skillful series to watch and will be one that is talked about for years to come. A bounce here or there, and St. Louis could be headed to round two, or at least to game seven back home in their barn.