Blackhawks force Game 7 vs. Blues
CHICAGO — There will be a Game 7 in St. Louis, as the Blackhawks scored five unanswered goals against the Blues to wrap up a 6–3 victory on Saturday night.
Andrew Ladd scored twice for Chicago, while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Dale Weise recorded their first playoff goals.
While the game may look like a dominant win for Chicago on paper, it can only be accurately described as a tale of three periods.
Puck drop for Game 7 is set for 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday.
Here’s how the three different frames went down:
Missed opportunity nearly drowns Hawks
The Blackhawks got off to a sizzling start. Andrew Ladd scored his first goal of the series just over four minutes into the game, and the United Center was brimming with energy as the defending champions looked to pad their lead. The Blackhawks had a great opportunity at the 6:07 mark when Dale Weise found Andrew Desjardins directly in front of the net while goalie Brian Elliott was looking elsewhere. It was an absolute layup of a shot, and the Hawks could have taken a commanding 2–0 lead early.
Instead, Desjardins whiffed. He missed wide of the post by about a foot, and the crowd let out a collective gasp as the Blues took the puck the other way. Eleven seconds later, Steve Ott found Scottie Upshall 18 feet in front of the net, and Upshall put it home to even the score. In an instant, Chicago lost an opportunity to take a two-goal lead, as the score was knotted at 1–1.
Chaos seemed to take the wind out of the Blackhawks’ sails. Less than three minutes later, Alex Pietrangelo put a puck past Corey Crawford from 60 feet out. Two minutes after that, Vladimir Tarasenko found himself alone on an island and put the third St. Louis goal of the period in the back of the net. Chicago’s defense had completely evaporated, and Corey Crawford was now a revolving door in goal.
“We had a great start, did everything we wanted to do, but three individual mistakes led to their three goals, mistakes we don’t normally make,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Mental fortitude has been one of Chicago’s biggest strengths during recent postseasons. That uncharacteristic implosion in the first period of Saturday’s Game 6 nearly ended their season.
Blackhawks explode in second
It would be fair to call the Blackhawks the “masters of Game 6.” Since 2009, they had gone 14–1 in them, their only loss coming at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes in 2012. But at the first intermission of this Game 6, Chicago went into the locker room in a wildly different spot than in years past. After a brutal first period, the Hawks faced a two-goal deficit for the first time in the series. It was eerily quiet in the United Center, an odd scene for a late-April hockey game.
The Blackhawks were clearly feeling the urgency, and came out of the locker room as a completely different team. After Kyle Brodziak of the Blues was whistled for the first penalty of the game (hooking) at 2:54, Artem Anisimov followed up by tapping a Marian Hossa shot in with his stick for a power play tally. For the entire second period, Chicago continued to attack Elliott, who had yet another strong game. Trevor Van Riemsdyk brought the game to even, when he crashed the St. Louis net and poked the puck in. It was a fitting moment of redemption for the defenseman, whose two brutal turnovers in Game 4 scuttled his team.
But Chicago wasn’t done. Four minutes later, Weise scored his first playoff goal as a member of the Blackhawks, another score from directly in front of St. Louis’s net. The crowd exploded. If the United Center was a ghost town in the first period, it was a rock concert in the second.
“That was probably the loudest I’ve ever heard the United Center,” Blackhawks winger Andrew Shaw said. “My ears were buzzing.”
Chicago outshot St. Louis by a whopping 19–6 in the period. Which is nothing new, considering the Blackhawks had a 189–149 advantaged over the first five games. The difference this time was the quality of the chances, mixed with a few lucky bounces. It was Chicago’s strongest period of the postseason by a mile, and the Hawks headed into the third with the momentum.
“They raised their level in the second period,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They were desperate, we didn’t match it.”
Critical third period
St. Louis dominated the first period. Chicago dominated the second. Something would have to give in the third.
The teams traded blows for the entire period, and the first 15 minutes were a stalemate. Both squads had ample chances, but neither side was able to score. It was thrilling, blow-for-blow hockey, and it seemed like the game would come down to the wire.
Then, with just five minutes left, Richard Panik drew a hooking penalty on Jay Bouwmeester, and Chicago made it two-for-two on the power play. Patrick Kane found Andrew Shaw from behind the Blues’ net to put Chicago up 5–3, and Marian Hossa added an empty netter just moments later.
Chicago is now 15–1 in Game 6’s during the Joel Quenneville era, and a team that looked down and out a few nights ago is just a win away from advancing. Meanwhile, a St. Louis squad that looked invincible has shown some notable flaws the past two nights. Elliott has looked human, and the St. Louis defensive front looks completely worn down. They’ve now had two chances to erase their postseason demons and win their first playoff series since 2013, and they’ve failed to put Chicago away both times.
Now, the series will come down to a final match. Judging by everything that’s happened in the first six games, it’s bound to be a good one.