Do Or Die Situation For Both Blackhawks And Blues In Game 3

T

he puck drops in the United Center for Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. The Blues have jumped to an early series lead of 2-0; however, they have not truly commanded the series. They have scratched out their victories with Lady Luck sitting on their shoulders in overtime.

After taking the time to talk with fans and find out their thoughts on the Blues’ progress, this is what Charles Herrmann, a long-time Blues fan, had to say about his team:

“The Blues are sadly not a great team, as much as I want them to be. When you watch great teams play, they are good every night. They may not win every game but you are not scratching your head at the end of the game wondering who you are watching. They do not rely on winning games in shootouts. They grind out three periods and win in regulation.”

That is something that the Blues have not been the best at, but need to figure out how to win it in three periods instead of clawing and scratching their way to an OT victory.

It is true that a win is a win during the playoffs. Ultimately, those with the most wins earn the prize. However, if you are relying on four, five and even six periods of play to earn those wins, what happens to the physical and mental preparedness of the players? Going out and playing hard for three periods is taxing, being in a high-stress game for more than that is just plain exhausting. Players will have a harder time rebounding after each game if it continues this way. Whichever team advances to round two will have a definite disadvantage.

Seabrook’s Hit On Backes


As with any playoff situation, the proverbial crap has hit the fan. Coaches, players, management and fans are slinging insults and taking jabs at every turn. With the hit on Blues’ captain David Backes and the subsequent suspension of Blackhawks’ defenseman Brent Seabrook, fans have jumped on board with the help of social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

The frenzy began almost immediately following the hit on Backes with Blues fans calling for Seabrook’s head to be delivered to the Blues locker room on a platter. Hawks’ fans retaliated by calling out Backes and claiming he was faking the injury, they demanded Seabrook back in the line-up if Backes was able to play in Game 3.

According to reports released by the Blues, Backes has indeed been scratched from the line-up for Game 3. Although the Blues will have the big Swede, Patrik Berglund, back. The power forward will help fill the hole that Backes leaves behind. It seems that both teams are scrambling to fill voids left by the Backes/Seabrook debacle. It will be interesting to see how well the Blues can adjust their play to absorb the loss of their captain. Which player will step up and take charge in an atmosphere that is highly explosive.

Teams Well Matched Or Blues Underestimated

Watching the first two games of this series, I saw a Blackhawks team not playing like the champion team that they have prided themselves on. They were making lack-luster plays and getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Goaltender Corey Crawford has looked tired and at times uncertain. The Blues were on a downward spiral coming into the series and for a well put-together and disciplined team such as the Blackhawks, these first two games should have been easily decided within the first three periods.

On the flip side, the Blues’ star acquisition has been less than stellar and also looking like a fish out of water. Ryan Miller was brought to St. Louis for his abilities to come through during big games. He has actually started to fall apart in my opinion. Yes, the Blues have won the first two games. But they were won in overtime after Miller had given up 3 goals in the course of regulation play.

Sudden death overtime is about skill, but it is also a little bit about luck. In Game 1, Miller had a lot of both, along with help from teammate Maxim Lapierre. Lapierre had been pushed into the crease by Blackhawk forward Brandon Saad. The clock was ticking down with less than two minutes to go in the first overtime when Lapierre blocked a shot from Kris Versteeg to keep the puck out of the open net and his team alive. The Blues eventually won that game in the third overtime, but if not for the quick thinking of Lapierre, the outcome would have been much different.

I would be inclined to say that the two teams are just that well matched and games going to overtime were to be expected. However, I do not believe that is the case. The Blues were in a slump, dropping their last six regular season games. The Blackhawks won four of their last six regular season games. The Hawks came into St. Louis with a little bit of a cocky attitude and an expectation that the Blues were still struggling and would have difficulties keeping up. They were wrong. The Blues came out swinging and came up with big plays that caught Chicago off-guard.

Will History Repeat Itself?

Last year — the infamous 2013 shortened season — the St. Louis Blues jumped to a commanding 2-0 lead in their series with the Los Angeles Kings during the Quarterfinals. The Blues won Game 1 in overtime and then also took Game 2 in regulation. They then proceeded to lose the next 4 games to be eliminated from the playoffs.

The Blues faced the Los Angeles Kings the year before that — the 2011-2012 season — in the Semifinals and lost 4 straight games to be eliminated from the playoffs. They have not done well under pressure and have a tendency to implode when the going gets tough. Head coach Ken Hitchcock, with all of his playoff experience, has yet to crack the code and push the team to a successful run for the Stanley Cup.

While fans are excited and showing that they truly do “bleed blue” in St. Louis, this is a familiar situation that the Blues have faced and the next game is critical in stabilizing the mentality of the team. Revenge will be on their minds since their beloved captain will not be able to return to the line-up for Game 3.

The Blackhawks will probably come out on the defensive because they know that the Blues will be on the hunt. It will make for an explosive game, but it will also make for a sloppily played game that will rely on the strength and mental readiness of the goaltenders.

Emotions have to be kept in check and players’ head need to remain clear for the task at hand on both sides. Otherwise, fireworks will explode, unnecessary penalties will occur and more suspensions will be handed down.

Follow Micki on Twitter, and while you’re at it follow Ice Nation UK for all the best hockey talk throughout the playoffs!

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