With regards to NBCSN's 'Rivalry Night', Saturday was the real night for a good old fashioned rivalry game. Chicago is in town all weekend and what better way to start it off then with a game that really reminds us of what hockey is about. Skill, physicality, great goal-tending and a genuine hatred for the opposing team made for an entertaining but unfortunately losing effort tonight.
In New York the Blues got off to yet another slow start and tonight the plan was to get over that and push the tempo against the Hawks. Just 43 seconds into the game Robby Fabbri tried to just do it all himself when he took a failed clearing attempt and drove to the front of the net. His pass back across the crease wasn't finished by his teammate but it was the start they were looking for. Even a so-so penalty call on Joel Edmundson didn't seem to slow the Blues down as they didn't allow a shot on goal while being down a man.
Even with all the hard work early on the Blues still found themselves down early as Duncan Keith's shot would seemingly get tipped by Andrew Shaw and make its way past Jake Allen:
While I didn't see a tip, the fact that they say it was tipped helps make it easier to see why Jake didn't get that one in his quick glove. The rest of the period he would leave us no doubts as to how good he really is. Allen would deny Marian Hossa not once but twice, including a breakaway late in the first among his other big saves in the frame.
After the breakaway by Hossa, Jonathan Toews would catch David Backes with a shoulder to the head drawing a penalty and setting up the physical play that was to come in the later periods. Backes would head off the ice to the locker room to get checked for a concussion and didn't start the second period, although he did rejoin the team a minute into the period.
The start of the second would bring some good chances for the Blues as they carried over the power play from the first and gained another shortly after the first expired. This is about where the game could have gotten out of control as during the second power play, Backes would catch Niklas Hjalmarsson from behind, shoving him face first into the boards. While not initially drawing a penalty, Toews didn't like what he saw and went after the captain as they seem to do each time they play. The fight between the two was't much but it did light a fire under both teams and evened up the sides as Backes would get the extra minor for the hit on Hjalmarsson.
After trading chances while 4 on 4, it was just after getting to full strength that Tarasenko did this:
Forty seconds later Marko Dano would catch Fabbri with his back to him and shove him into the boards face first gaining a boarding call. This didn't seem like retribution from the Backes hit but it wasn't pretty seeing Fabbri on the ice like that. Thankfully he bounced up and continued on in the game. Which is a good thing because he wouldn't have been able to celebrate what his sacrifice led to from Tarasenko:
All of a sudden the Hawks looked like the Blues from the last few years and not the defending Champs, St. Louis was taking the game to them. Unfortunately you can't keep a Joel Queneville team down too long and the last five minutes the Hawks inserted themselves right back into the game. A failed reverse play in his own zone by Backes led to Trevor van Riemsdyk blasting home a shot from point blank to tie the game up. The Hawks would keep the pressure up and had another glorious chance from Dano:
Oh, wait, you thought that was a goal didn't you? Thank god for the lack of goal line technology in hockey because that puck was probably across the line, but we will take it. This smacks of Save of the Year candidate and is right on par if not better then the one he made in Calgary. Alas, the tie game would not stand as Troy Brouwer would take an innocent slashing penalty which would lead to Patrick Kane being left wide open in the slot and netting the go ahead goal about 38 seconds later.
#RoarBacon anyone? With the Blues 0-4-1 when trailing after 2 we needed some pork going our way to tie this game up. An early penalty to Keith set the Blues up but the Hawks really started to shut down the neutral zone and made it difficult to enter the zone, let alone set up. With the trap working so well, it wasn't until roughly 6 minutes left in the game that the Blues finally got sustained pressure in the Hawks zone. A few nice saves by Crawford and a post left the Blues wanting but they kept pushing.
With less then two to go Chicago would break from their zone and a pass to the middle of the ice was redirected by Toews on net, but Allen made a huge save to keep the Blues only down one. But the neutral zone trap proved to be the undoing tonight as they could't penetrate the zone and therefore couldn't get Allen off when they wanted him. Once they did get him off, a quick steal by Toews led to Hjalmarsson pushing forward and sliding the puck to Anisimov who iced the game with an empty netter.
Even though we lost tonight I have to say that the Chicago team from the past few years that scared me doesn't seem to be there just yet. Yes I know they have some injuries and are playing a lot of youngsters but the slight regression of Crawford and their secondary scoring not really being there has put them in a place unfamiliar to them. I am not as pissed losing to them tonight because this really was a good hockey game and its early in the year, even though you gotta et points when you can. Lets just hope we can put up 7 or more on Winnipeg Monday like Nashville did tonight.
#3 - Jori Lehtera: assists on both goals, love the chemistry on the Steen, Lehtera, Tarasenko line
#2 - Jake Allen: Save of the Year candidate, only one player can trump Allen on most nights
#1 - Vladi Tarasenko: This is that guy, 2 more goals & another laser shot that most goalies couldn't stop let alone see