Tonight, the series will shift to Chicago and the Madhouse, a place that has given the Blues fits over the past few seasons (2-4-1 in the past three seasons). The Blackhawks are also a strong home team; they are 27-7-7 this season, tied with the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks for the least regulation losses. Chicago will be playing before a crowd of 20,000 plus fans hungry for a win as well as upset with how their team has been playing the past couple games.
The Blues have been pushing the Hawks around in Scottrade the first two games. Chicago's problem is, they've been pushing back. You could say Chicago has been allowing St. Louis to win. If you think Chicago is going to allow St. Louis to win at the United Center, you are quite delusional my friend. Everyone on the Blackhawks side has been very disappointed with their inability to finish games. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford for example took a bit of blame for losing game two, and Coach Joel Quenneville agreed with his sentiment. It's probably safe to expect that Crawford will be much better than he has been.
I do believe Chicago will have a lot more to play for than St. Louis (and it could be because I still don't fully understand the impact Brent Seabrook's hit and what ensued has had in the Blues locker room). Again, they're playing at home, and will be trying their damnedest to not disappoint fans. Also, they'll definitely want to extend the series (minus obvious reasons) to get Seabrook back in the lineup. Keep in mind, if the Blues were to complete the sweep, the suspension would carry over, which means he will miss the next season opener.
The series continues to only get tougher for St. Louis just as much as it continues to get tougher for Chicago. However, remember that the Blackhawks have been in precarious positions like these before, most notably last year. They came from the brink of elimination (down three games to one) and clawed their way back up to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in seven games, as Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out.
"This group is more than capable of doing what we did last year in the playoffs against Detroit or against Boston when we lost two games," Blackhawks defensman Michal Rozsival said. "We know we have the tools to do [it]. I'm not sure exactly what it's going to take, but we all have to get better- just a little bit better to finish games."
St. Louis has also been in this same position, as the Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss mentions. The Blues also led a superior (also a Stanley Cup defending team to be specific) Los Angeles Kings team in a playoff series two game to none last year, and we remember how that one ended.
Now what the Blues will need to do is simple: Play the way they have been, but cleaner. Because of the Seabrook hit, it's probably safe to assume the officiating will be much more strict tonight. With the Blues being the second most penalized team in the NHL in the regular season, that's an advantage for Chicago right away. It is also important for the Blues to keep their foot on the gas when they get a lead. As most of you saw in game two, they sat on their 2-0 lead, and Chicago took advantage of it quickly, rattling off three straight goals to gain a lead. You just cannot risk curling up into a defensive shell in the playoffs. Additionally, as the Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz points out, the Blues must also keep the pressure up on the Blackhawks.
The most important key, however, do not take physical revenge. The only "revenge" that is needed (and is just as satisfying) is on the scoreboard.
"You're angry with the player who did that," said Blues forward Chris Porter of the Seabrook hit. "But we said right on the bench 'we're going to win this for him.' He's battled for us all year. So lets take these five minutes on the power play and do whatever we can, whether it takes a full five minutes or not, and tie it up."
"That's not going to win games, being undisciplined," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk added. "We see them break a little bit there with the hit on David, and I think rather than go out there and try to do the same on them, we rallied and really tried to score a goal for him."
Head Coach Ken Hitchcock was ready to answer the question of on-ice justice at Sunday's optional skate.
"Like they get one of us, we go get one of them? Does that win the playoffs? Not really," Hitch said. "That's just reaction. There's no team I've seen win a series that just reacts every time."
The main goal, albeit daunting, for the Blues is clear: Win (or steal, depending on your perspective) a game in Chicago. Preferably, it will have to be tonight. Should Chicago get their first win tonight, a Blues win Wednesday will be even more difficult.