After Tuesday night's "interesting" game against Winnipeg, the St. Louis Blues faced a familiar face on Thursday with the Chicago Blackhawks in town. Chicago was looking to avenge the 2-1 loss they suffered at home on Sunday to the Blues while St. Louis was trying to secure home ice in the first round.
The intensity for tonight's game was felt from the drop of the puck in the first as both teams came out flying. The Blues put enormous pressure on Chicago resulting in multiple turnovers from a Chicago team that usually handles the puck very well. Hawks goalie Coarey Crawford has been their rock this year and he showed it yet again tonight as he stonewalled every attempt the Blues got off of those turnovers. Neither team was able to gain much traction as both teams clogged the neutral zone and offensive zone time was limited.
Chicago's best chance came with 2:40 remaining in the period as Brandon Saad got a partial breakaway but was unable to get a shot at Jake Allen as Kevin Shattenkirk slashed his stick, drawing a penalty, but denying a glorious scoring opportunity. The Blues penalty kill continued their recent domination on the ensuing penalty, blocking shots and controlling the puck for most of the man advantage. Near the end of the kill, David Backes was able to get the puck deep in the Chicago zone, rung a shot off of Brent Seabrook's knee and eventually helped draw a penalty on the Hawks to set the Blues up in the second.
The Blues opened the second on the power play but were unable to muster much in the way of offense and that continued for the first half of the period as Chicago was able to get a little offense going on their own power play shortly after the Blues expired. The rest of the second was another back and forth between the two teams until 3:34 left, when Jori Lethera would draw a penalty that would change the complexion of the game. Lethra drove into the offensive zone and was clipped in the face while falling down by David Runblad's stick, drawing blood and a four minute power play for the Blues.
After very little success on their first two power plays, the Blues were finally able to get their plays set and run, which led to Dmitri Jaskin being in the right place at the right time.
With that goal coming in the first 44 seconds of the double minor, the Blues would spend almost the rest of the period on the power play. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on the extra penalty and would take only a 1-0 lead to the break. Just like on Sunday, though, one had the feeling that this game was in their control.
The first half of the third would deal with a little bit of sloppiness by the Blues and Allen had to come up a few times with big saves to preserve the lead including a point blank stop on Bryan Bickell after a giveaway by Barret Jackman with 13:41 remaining. After sustaining the early pressure from Chicago the Blues took back control of the game, even drawing a penalty on Crawford as he clipped Ryan Reaves with a high stick as he was rounding the net.
The Blues would double their lead with 6 minutes to go as a bad bounce in the Blues zone would lead to a 3 on 1 break for Jaden Schwartz, TJ Oshie and Paul Stastny:
Chicago wouldn't go away that easy, though, as they continued to put pressure on the Blues, but the boys continued to block passing lanes, shots and were more physical the Chicago. Although they did make it interesting late as a giveaway during 4 on 4 play late in the game led to Andrew Shaw putting in a rebound to make the game 2-1 and putting Blues fans right on the edge of the little of the seat they had left. But once again the Blues shut things down for Chicago and even an extra attacker wasn't enough to get anything near Allen and his net.
For the second time in three games the Blues beat the Hawks 2-1 and it was the third straight 2-1 loss for Chicago. The win moved the Blues to 107 points, home ice in the first round and with Nashville's loss it gave them the Central Division Title. If the Blues win and the Anaheim Ducks lose in regulation on Saturday the Blues will win the West as well. The Hawks loss regulated them to the road team in the first round and they could still end up being passed by Minnesota.
The Blues have shown their ability to win games without their top stars as well and this could bode well for the playoffs when they get Steen and Tarasenko back. It also helps that they have two superb goalies going in Allen and Brian Elliott. The Blues final regular season game comes Saturday against Minnesota at 2pm, Minnesota will try to pass Chicago and the Blues look to put themselves in a position for the top spot in the West.
#3 - Dmitri Jaskin: Goal on 5 shots
#2 - Paul Stastny: GWG
#1 - Jake Allen: 22 Saves, has given up 2 or less goals in 7 straight games