CHICAGO - The sky is falling in St. Louis.
With a win Saturday night, the Blackhawks fended off elimination once more and forced a game 7 in St. Louis meaning the Blues could still be pushed out of the playoffs in the first round.
So again, the sky is falling in the Gateway City because the Blues could see their postseason hopes dashed in the opening round for the fourth straight year. It’s Groundhog’s Day.
St. Louis had the chance to win on the road when they produced a strong first period performance. After giving up a horrendous turnover by Kevin Shattenkirk in his own zone leading to a goal, the Blues roared back scoring three goals in 4:42. The scoring was spread out among the lines with tallies from Scottie Upshall, Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues took a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
But the Blues ghost of playoffs past reared their ugly head in the second period by coming out flat and despondent hoping to hold onto a two goal lead. In the locker room players described their performance as tight.
“We sat back too much. We've got to keep pushing the pace,” Alexander Steen said. “We took our foot off the gas in the end. They come out and give us a good push and we almost squeezed the sticks a little bit and started playing a little too hesitant.”
The Hawks scored three unanswered goals in the period, one on the power play. The Blues got away from their forecheck and gave Chicago skaters too much room to play the puck. Chicago threw 19 shots at Brian Elliott while the Blues were only able to muster six in the period.
“We've got to stay on top of them all the time,” said Steen. “[We have to] keep playing and keep pressing the way we have. That's the reason we came out of the first period with a 3-1 lead.”
In the six games played this series, St. Louis has been out-scored 10-3 in the second period. However the team proved in games 3, 4 and 5 they are able to mount a serious comeback and the team did put pressure directing 11 shots at Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. None of those shots found the back of the net.
“They played at a pace that we struggled with until we regrouped in the third and came back at them,” said Ken Hitchcock. “They were desperate, we didn't match it. They got that fourth goal that got the lead and they were able to keep us pretty much on the outside in the third period. That's what you have to fight through it you're going to win.”
Now the series comes back to Scottrade Center which the Blues deem their advantage, yet, the road team has won four games. And with championship experience on their side, it’s going to be hard to knock off the reigning Stanley Cup winners.
“We've got to raise the bar. Get home, raise the bar and get ready for game 7,” said Pietrangelo. “We worked 82 games this year to get that home ice so it's time to use it now. If you dwell on this game then you won't be ready for Monday.”
With the 6-3 win the Blackhawks are 15-1 in Game 6s. While the numbers are more encouraging for Blues fans in Game 7, where the Hawks only 2-2, the Blues need a full 60 minutes of forechecking and puck possession to win. Luckily they have the benefit of the final chance and seemingly favorable matchups.
“We worked hard all year to get to this,” said Hitchcock on his team’s home ice advantage. “We've got an opportunity in front of us and I really want to see us take advantage of it. But we're going to need people to play better. We're going to need our whole team to play better. And if we do that then I like our chances.”
Monday’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.