St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko (91) celebrates with Maxim Lapierre (40) after scoring his goal during the third period in Game 4 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The Blac
Nam Y. Huh
April 25, 2014

The St. Louis Blues had no Game 7 predictions late Saturday night. They were too busy fending off questions about their impending collapse.

Who could blame reporters for asking?

While the Chicago Blackhawks are doing what they always seem to do, the Blues are suddenly facing a familiar first-round flop, one they will try to avoid when they head back to St. Louis for Monday night's series finale.

"It's going to be fun here to win it in Chicago."

That Game 6 prophecy of sorts from Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo suddenly sounds more like a Chicago rallying call.

It tanked hard Saturday night when the defending Stanley Cup champions scored five unanswered goals for a 6-3 win at United Center to force a winner-take-all finish.

Dale Weise capped a three-goal second period with the eventual winner, and Andrew Shaw scored in his return from a one-game suspension for hurling a gay slur at officials in Game 4. Those tallies helped the Blackhawks rally from a 3-1 deficit - just like they could in this series with one more victory.

Chicago improved to 45-15 in Games 4-7 and 15-1 in Game 6s in eight seasons under coach Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks are 2-2 in Game 7s in that time, including a win and loss on the road.

"It's a testament again to our experience and the guys who haven't been here ... to really buy in and play the right way when we've been in this do-or-die position we've been in the last couple games," captain Jonathan Toews said. "You see what can happen when we all buy in, we all play the right way."

Toews is still yet to score in this series, but he had two assists Saturday. A Chicago attack that totaled eight goals through the first four games has 10 in the last two - starting with Thursday's 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 5.

St. Louis seemed to have the Blackhawks' number, winning three of five regular-season meetings and outplaying them early in this series.

However, a massive hit advantage shrank to just 40-38 on Saturday, the narrowest margin yet. The physical play, which resulted in a fight from Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford and Shaw's outburst in Game 4, has amounted to a 249-187 St. Louis advantage through six games.

While St. Louis has bested Chicago in the first and third periods, the middle 20 minutes has resulted in a 10-3 Blackhawks scoring edge.

Goaltender Brian Elliott was great the opening four games but has surrendered nine goals the last two with an .871 save percentage and 3.79 goals-against average. He was beaten three times on 19 Chicago shots in Saturday's second period.

"They raised the bar for a period, OK? So now it's our turn to answer," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've worked hard all year to get to this. We've got an opportunity in front of us. I really want to see us take advantage of it, but we're going to need people to play better."

If not, another first-round exit could be on the radar.

The Blues have been knocked out in the opening round in each of the last three seasons, including a 2014 six-game series against the Blackhawks that they led 2-0.

A reporter asked Alexander Steen following Saturday's loss, "Does doubt ever creep in your mind, like, 'What do you have to do to beat these guys?'"

"We've got to win Game 7," Steen answered sharply.

The reporter asked again, "Is there any doubt in your mind?"


You May Like