Chicago ousted St. Louis with a 5-1 win Sunday in front of a rocking, sold-out United Center. The crowd did its best to ensure that the Blackhawks would play another home game this spring. They will, and when they do their opponent will be someone else.
Brent Seabrook, freshly back from suspension, wasted little time in contributing following his involuntary three-game absence by assisting on Bryan Bickell’s opening goal just 4:12 in. A dozen minutes later the Blues T.J. Oshie tied the score at 16:28 from the top of the crease.
Then Blackhawk captain Jonathan Toews opened the 3rd with a power play goal to wrest back the lead.
Chicago would never trail again.
Patrick Sharp, Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith chipped in insurance goals at 2:01, 7:30 and 17:05 respectively. Then all that remained of the series was the sportsmanship showcased by the traditional handshakes.
The St. Louis Blues were almost there. They had defense, they had offense and they had grit. All they lacked was someone they could count on to stop the puck more consistently than either of the goalies they’d already had.
Knowing this, Blues GM Doug Armstrong opted to roll the dice; shipping players and picks eastward to the Sabres for Buffalo’s elite backstop, Ryan Miller, and captain, Steve Ott. With both unrestricted free agents and no guarantee either will return, the Blues’ time was now.
Now, that time has passed.
This series saw Buffalo native Patrick Kane come up big against Buffalo legend Miller with 6 total points; including the overtime goal that won Game 4.
Did #39 simply need more time to adapt to his new team, or was he already California dreamin’?
While this series certainly did not see Ryan Miller at his best, my guess is probably neither. Miller is a world-class goaltender, and sometimes you give your all and still come up short. That’s sports. And in those instances a lot also has to do with the offensive ability of the opposition. Even moreso when that opposition is Chicago.
This 1st Round matchup also saw the Blues lose to injury their rugged captain David Backes for two games due to the suspension-level hit delivered by Seabrook.
Would having had the gritty Backes in the lineup for the overtime contest the Blues lost, and that he missed, have made a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll never know.
While the St. Louis brass will now spend the rest of the spring asking itself internal questions regarding how to move forward within their window, Chicago will spend at least some of it continuing to lace up the skates.
After going nearly a half century between Stanley Cups, the ‘Hawks have taken the required first step in 2014 to give themselves the chance to get absolutely stuffed on them.
Can they really bag three championships in five years? As always, time will tell. Stay tuned.
Chicago now moves on to face the winner of the Colorado Avalanche-Minnesota Wild series in Round 2. If you’re looking to go to a game in Round 2, make sure to grab Chicago parking from ParkWhiz.