Lighting the Lamp With Rick Ackerman
Wow! What a game one in this opening round series between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks. The hockey gods surely smiled on David Backes and the Blues as they took a one game lead on the Captain’s overtime goal that squeaked off the skate of Hawks’ defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and then trickled through goaltender Corey Crawford’s five-hole. Yes, throw the puck at the net and sometimes good things do indeed happen.
Yes, it was quite the game in which an unstoppable force truly met an immovable object. In this case, the supposedly unstoppable force (the Blackhawks, favored by a majority of media and online "experts") met an immovable object, goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 35 saves in the 69 minutes he played. The Moose was awarded the second star of the game, as well as second star of the night on the NHL Network. Although scoreless on four power plays, the Blues killed off all five Chicago power plays and out hit the Blackhawks 41 to 24. Diminutive rookie Robby Fabbri crushed Hawks’ defenseman Michal Rozsival with a hard check and sent him to the locker room, while Troy Brouwer legally smashed defenseman Viktor Svedberg into the boards. At least neither Blackhawk ran to the referees and cried about it, quite unlike Patrick Kane who was crosschecked into the boards by Alex Pietrangelo earlier in the game.
This match brought back a happy memory for me personally as it was reminiscent of a 1-0 Blues victory over the Blackhawks I witnessed almost fifty years ago back on Saturday, November 23, 1968. It was the last night a young, naïve twenty year-old would spend in St. Louis for a while as I was headed to basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas the following day. And what a going away present the Blues and goaltender Jacques Plante gave me! Jake the Snake was spectacular in goal with 44 saves, stopping the likes of Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull, Ken Wharram, Jim Pappin and Pat Stapleton. Bill McCreary, a journeyman left winger, scored the only goal of the game for the Blues, perhaps the single best hockey game I have ever been privileged to watch. The Old Barn on Oakland was rocking as a capacity crowd cheered every save Plante made, going absolutely crazy when McCreary scored. The last minute of that game was perhaps the longest minute of my life (so far).
The officiating from referees Gord Dwyer and Eric Furlatt was quite spotty and rather peculiar. During the first period there were a lot of ticky-tacky hooking calls (on Alexander Steen and Carl Gunnarsson) and a weird tripping call on Jay Bouwmeester when Artem Anisimov stepped on his stick. However, for the rest of the game many obvious penalties were simply ignored as the zebras put away the whistles and let the boys play. As noted, Kane whined to the refs about being crosschecked (lightly) into the boards and an obvious holding call on Pietrangelo went unpunished. And when the Blues clearly had too many men on the ice, offsides was called instead. Huh?
Since Colton Parayko was penalized for shooting the puck high over the glass (delay of game) in overtime, it was rather strange that another automatic penalty for playing the puck from the penalty box (rule 56.2) was ignored earlier in the game by the officials, including both linesmen (Michel Cormier and Steve Miller). Chicago’s Brandon Mashinter was clearly guilty, yet the obvious call was not made, much to the disdain of the partisan capacity crowd. Yes, at times the ref really does suck!
So, moving forward, it is pretty clear to everyone that the Blues will need to step up their shots on goal in order to score more goals. Although Elliott is capable, it is quite unreasonable to expect him to shutout Chicago for what would be the remaining three games in the first round series. One cannot use being shorthanded three times (including 35 seconds of five on three) as an excuse for only getting four shots on goal in the first period. Nor is there any excuse for only two shots on goal in the third period. At least the Blues were shooting from the point, as the team leaders were Kevin Shattenkirk and Parayko with three each. Fabbri and Paul Stastny led forwards with two shots each. Unfortunately, the Blues’ "Russian Jesus" only had one shot on goal.
The Blues must also keep up the pressure on the Blackhawks by continuing to hit and check them at every opportunity. St. Louis’ hit men leaders included the trio of Ryan Reaves, Brouwer and Scottie Upshall with five each, Kyle Brodziak and Jaden Schwartz with four and Fabbri, Patrik Berglund and Backes with three apiece. It was rather surprising that neither Parayko nor Joel Edmundson registered a single hit on opposing Hawks’ forwards. Scoring star Andrew Ladd led the Blackhawks with eight hits, followed by Rozsival with five and Mashinter and Brent "Wakey-wakey" Seabrook with three. And, yes, there is some truth to the rumor that the "A" on Seabrook’s jersey really stands for "Asshole."
It would be wonderful to see the Blues greet suspended Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith with some ferocious body checks and hits in tonight’s game two and continue the physical play, along with a few more shots on goal. An early blitz of shots on goaltender Crawford and a couple of first period goals would certainly help the Note get a two to nil game lead in the series, eh?