This series couldn’t be played much closer than it has so far. A couple calls have gone the Blackhawks way, a few bounces have gone the Blues way, and St. Louis is up 2-1 after three games. In case you’re wondering, the Blackhawks came back from this exact scenario in each of their last two series during last year’s playoffs, so it isn’t time to get worried yet.
The top two lines for the Blackhawks, including Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and other guys that the Hawks are relying on have yet to score in this series. You can look at the fact that the Hawks have only scored three even strength goals so far a few different ways. Of course, the Blues are doing a great job of keeping the Hawks from getting open looks from in front of the net and Blues goalie Brian Elliott is playing great. You could choose to believe that will continue, but I happen to believe that as this series goes longer and longer, the Hawks will start to figure out ways to get the puck to high-danger areas more often and will start putting away some more of their chances.
Joel Quenneville has a couple lineup changes that he hopes will work, subbing Andrew Desjardins back in after sitting Game 3 for Dale Weise, and giving David Rundblad (gulp) his first crack at this year’s playoffs, subbing in for Viktor Svedberg. Rundblad has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, and rightly so, for his play since he’s been in Chicago. Hopefully he can provide a little more offense and a boost to the power play rather than the poor net coverage and turnovers he’s been prone to for the last few seasons.
If none of that works, Quenneville has yet to really let the line blender start humming yet. If the Blackhawks get off to a slow start, expect Q to change up his lines, perhaps going to his nuclear options which include pairing Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith together on defense or putting Kane and Toews together to give a jolt to their 5-on-5 offense.
No need to panic yet. A win tonight pushes this series an extra game. We should know by now that the longer a series goes on, the longer the Blackhawks can stay alive, the tougher they become to beat. The Hawks have yet to really play with desperation while the Blues are treating this like their Stanley Cup. The margin has been razor thin, but hopefully the Hawks do what it takes to tie this series before it goes back to St. Louis on Thursday. Positive vibrations, people. LET’S GO HAWKS!!!