It took a gargantuan effort by the Blues to knock off the defending champion Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. Let’s take a look back at the Blues' top three stars of the first round.
1. Brian Elliott
After taking a backseat to Ryan Miller and Jake Allen in the past two postseasons, goaltender Brian Elliott finally got his chance and he was spectacular against the Blackhawks, especially over the course of the beginning of the series and then again in Game 7. Impressively, Elliott had Patrick Kane’s number throughout the seven games, only allowing a wrap-around backhander from the NHL star in Game 5's double-overtime. Elliott faltered just slightly in Game 6, but much of that could be attributed to shaky defense in front of him.
“He's our best player all series long,” captain David Backes said. “You got great goal tending and you have a chance. We're going to need more great goal tending against a high scoring Dallas. But he's a guy who battled his whole career to get this opportunity to be focused, to be ready for this and he hasn't disappointed one bit.”
Over the course of the seven game series, Elliott turned away 236 of 254 shots thrown at him. Goaltending has been a sore spot in Blues playoff history, but Elliott’s performance proved he’s a netminder St. Louis can ride through the playoffs.
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2. Vladimir Tarasenko
The number two star is a no-brainer. Vladimir Tarasenko led his team in goals for the series (4) adding to his already impressive playoff pedigree. The Russian skater has 14 goals in 20 postseason games. And Tarasenko terrorized Chicago goalie Corey Crawford with his wicked wrist shot. Unfortunately the end of the series was fraught with controversy over Tarasenko’s ice-time, or rather, the lack of it.
“That's what happens when you've got a guy like that that wants to make a difference,” said Ken Hitchcock. “I love it. I love it in him.”
Tarasenko averaged 17:02 on the ice, sixth among the team’s forwards. Expect it to be a big story that will follow into Round 2.
3. Alex Pietrangelo
The Blues' top defender played up to the billing. Averaging 30:33 of ice time - tops for the club - Pietrangelo was called upon to stop Chicago’s top players and did so with great results. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews had only one goal in the series. The 27-year-old made one of the best defensive plays of the series in Game 7. When Brent Seabrook’s shot bounced off both posts, Pietrangelo was able to get behind Brian Elliott and swat the puck away from the goal preserving his team’s lead.
“I thought just get back as soon as I could. I got it right at the last second. Half a second later it's in our net. I just did my job there,” Pietrangelo said.
Offensively, Pietrangelo put up career-best playoff numbers. The blue-liner scored one goal and added five assists.
“This is new to a lot of us new guys,” Pietrangelo said following Game 7. “I've been here since the first round win when we beat San Jose. We know the second round is just as hard as the first so we'll enjoy this now and then flip that switch and be ready for Dallas.”
Honorable mention: Troy Brouwer
On paper Troy Brouwer only posted one goal and one assist in his first playoff series as a Blue. But those numbers mean more when your only goal serves as the series winner and your biggest task of the series was to shut down the opposition’s top scorers. Most of Brouwer’s contributions can be measured on the Blackhawks score sheet. Brouwer and partner Paul Stastny held Kane and Toews to one goal in the playoffs. Few times have been able to keep those lethal players quiet with 88 postseason goals between the two Chicago skaters since the 2009 playoffs.