The Chicago Blackhawks may not win this year’s Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks may not even make it to the NHL’s championship series. The Blackhawks may not defeat the St. Louis Blues in tonight’s Game 7. If Game 7 is the last time fans see the Blackhawks take the ice this season, they can at least be satisfied in knowing that the team has shown the heart of a champion in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.
When the NHL Playoff pairings were set it was widely assumed that the Blackhawks vs. Blues series would be the most competitive matchup. The NHL have a series featuring two evenly matched teams, with few weaknesses — the Blackhawks have limited defenseman depth, the Blues lack overall playoff success. They both finished the regular season just four points separating the two. In a perfect world, the Blackhawks and Blues series would be the Western Conference Finals, not a first round showdown.
Both teams have held a disdain for each other for years and now they stand in the way of each other’s goal of raising the Stanley Cup trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks have achieved that feat three times in six seasons. During that same timeframe, the St. Louis Blues have advanced to the second round just once. No one is blaming a lack of talent for the Blues’ struggles getting to the next round. The Blues thought that this was the year that they would advance deep in the NHL Playoffs. This is the deepest team they have had in five years.
St. Louis boast four lines which are capable carrying the team at any time. They have made it to the NHL Playoffs five consecutive years, four under head coach Ken Hitchcock, so the experience is growing. Because the NHL Playoffs pairings for the opening round is decided upon division standings first, the Blues drew a battle-tested Chicago Blackhawks’ team.
After holding a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Blackhawks, the Blues find themselves in a winner take all Game 7.
Is the panic sinking in for the St. Blues, or has the championship mettle of the Chicago Blackhawks began to show up?
There has to be some nail-biting in St. Louis because the Stanley Cup defending team is finding the perfect rhythm at just the right time.
A 3-1 deficit did not deter the Chicago Blackhawks one bit. By the end of Game 4, some of the Blackhawks’ fans are starting to believe that this season championship contention may not be in the cards. And why would they not believe that? The Blues had just defeated the Blackhawks 4-3 in a frustrating game with Game 5 in St. Louis. To add insult to injury, the Blackhawks would be without forward Andrew Shaw.
Shaw, who was suspended for Game 5 (courtesy of the Chicago Tribune) for shouting a homophobic slur at a referee was one of the Blackhawks’ best performers in the NHL Playoffs. The Blackhawks were behind the eight-ball in Game 5 with Shaw absence.
An overtime goal by Patrick Kane gave the Chicago Blackhawks the win in Game 5.
In Game 6, the entire team stepped up and stole the momentum from the St. Louis Blues’ hands with a 6-3 victory that was closer than the final score would suggest. The Blackhawks were actually losing 3-1 at the end of the first period.
The championship resolve of the Chicago Blackhawks just burst through the door and boldly announced that they will not simply hand the Blues the best-of-seven series.
Chicago Blackhawks’ head coach Joel Quenneville spoke of the team’s relaxed nature (courtesy of CBS Local Chicago) at the end of Game 6.
“When we were down 3-1, we had nothing to lose and the pressure was on them. And now it’s even more so. It’s one game. I know that we’ve got momentum, that’s what we’re looking to get. Let’s go in there, have some fun.”
Are the Chicago Blackhawks having fun, or are they doing what they do best, which is rise to the occasion during adverse situations?
Now, everything seems to be on the line in Game 7 in the opening round of the NHL Playoffs. After being down 3-1 in a series to the St. Louis Blues, the Chicago Blackhawks have done what the championship teams do, which is show their resolve.
The Chicago Blackhawks may not win the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks may not even make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. It is up to the St. Louis Blues to keep the Blackhawks from advancing.
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]