Playing in a playoff game that lasts three extra periods can significantly wear a team down physically, but for the Blackhawks, the mental repercussions from a game like this could have a much bigger effect. This series is supposed to be a cake-walk for the Hawks. The Blackhawks are defending Stanley Cup Champions and have their two stars in Kane and Toews coming back from injury. The Blues have had seven starters injured, a goalie that has struggled mightily and a six game losing streak to boot. However, the storylines from Game One tell a different story.
The start of the game followed the storyline predicted by most: the offensive fireworks began early as the injury-laden Blues, along with a struggling G Ryan Miller, had to score big in order to keep up with the talented scoring of the defending Cup Champions. In the first period, Miller let in three goals on just seven Blackhawk shots as Chicago pounced on Miller to take an early first period lead 3-2. However, the rest of the game settled into a pace that better suited the strong and physical Blues team over a quick and talented Blackhawks team.
After the first period, big hits followed big saves in a game that had Hawks fans questioning whether or not Captain Jonathan Toews was truly healthy or not. The Blues began to settle into their game throughout the remaining four periods, becoming relentless in their pursuit of Toews, who at several times throughout the game appeared to be wincing in serious pain. Toews played through whatever ailed him in the game and finished with two assists. After the third period, the two overtime periods saw several big scoring chances for the Hawks. However, Miller made big save after big save to keep his team in the game. But no save opportunity was bigger than the one that was not even made by Miller, but by Maxim Lapierre on a shot by Chicago forward Kris Versteeg.
With just 1:51 remaining in the first overtime, Ryan Miller was caught out of position leaving a wide open net for the Hawks to finish the game, but Lapierre who was also forced out of position, perfectly found himself in the middle of the crease and was able to block Versteeg’s shot from point blank range. Although the chances were there for the Chicago Blackhawks to win Game One, all it took to sink them was a defensive breakdown just 26 seconds into the third overtime. Those failed chances have actually boosted the confidence in the Hawks’ locker-room as they plan on capitalizing on such chances again. With this confidence, the Hawks are not worried and understand the importance of winning Game Two in St. Louis and taking back the home-ice advantage.
The St. Louis Blues may appear to be a team that has regained much of their confidence that was lost over the past few weeks, but if the Hawks take Game Two- confidence built in St. Louis or not- the ice tilts back in favor of the defending Stanley Cup Champions. In the eyes of the Blackhawks, all losing Game One did was keep up with the status-quo. On their run to the 2013 Stanley Cup, the Hawks dropped all four series road-openers. The Blackhawks underestimated the Blues in Game One and failed to capitalize on several amazing chances, but do not expect the defending Stanley Cup Champions to make that same mistake again.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles