Blues Bruised but Beat Blackhawks Again
The Stanley Cup's first-round storylines are taking shape in a variety of ways:
- Columbus has 11 players getting their first taste of the post-season, and Jack Johnson is bearing the brunt of it;
- Tampa Bay has already had a players-only meeting;
- Philadelphia and New York, as predicted, don't need a reason to dislike each other and so they don't like each other;
- Dallas hasn't figured out the game starts when the puck drops and not when Anaheim has at least a three-goal lead;
- Colorado does just fine without a goalie; and
- San José may have finally figured out how to score against Los Angeles.
Then there's Detroit and Boston, with seemingly equal parts bush league, to the tune of a $5000 spearing fine ...
and brilliant, such as Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk teaming up for an incredible game-winner that was also the game's only goal.
Then there's the pairing of the St Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. The Black and Blue in their monikers are truth in advertising. In more ways than one.
The only puck Niklas Hjalmarsson hasn't blocked has been on face-offs. How he's still walking is a testament to human endurance. And how national broadcasters continue to butcher his name is a test of viewer endurance, at least on the part of the Scandinavian contingent. Listen closely, dudes:
They forever tainted Teemu Selänne -- ask a Finn; it's TAY-moo SAY-leh-nuh -- and as prominent as Hjalmarsson is becoming, it seems he's the next in line.
Of greater concern is Chicago's inability to hold the lead in a game's last moments. Twice they've allowed late game scrambles to draw the Blues even -- in Game 1 with 1:45 remaining and Game 2 with 6.4 seconds left -- to see a 2-0 series lead that should have been theirs go to St Louis instead.
Both squads are giving as well as they get, but the Blackhawks have taken to pushing the envelope even more. It's costing them. The penalty-minute count in Game 2 was 41-20, including this vicious head shot by Brent Seabrook on Blues captain David Backes:
It was a five and a game. And the announcers are right; Chicago could have used Seabrook in overtime.
Frankly, though, the excess is working. St Louis only managed one power play goal, which didn't come on a long 5-on-3 that saw them take a paucity of challenging shots.
The Blues came into the playoffs trying to get their roster back in one piece. The Blackhawks are obviously well aware of this, and they're doing their best Snidely Whiplash to keep it from happening.
Backes is still trying to get the fog to clear. Meanwhile, there's no fog in Chi-Town. The reigning Cup holders are well aware St Louis was up 2-0 on the Kings last year and then were eliminated in four straight. They know what they're doing.