We are all more than familiar with the two predominant narratives heading into tonight's game seven. The Blackhawks have come from behind in a series before. Their record in elimination games under Coach Q is otherworldly. They forced a game seven in 2014 against the Kings in the Western Conference finals, and they knocked out the Red Wings after being down 3-1 in round two of the 2013 playoffs.
In 2013 they won. In 2014 they didn't. They are, believe it or not, defeatable in these situations.
The Blues are defeatable in these situations as well. They, more often than not, find some way to defeat themselves. Be it Jay Bouwmeester standing on Brian Elliott's stick in the second overtime of game five, or a complete defensive meltdown in the second period of game six, these Blues seem to have a case of the yips instead of a killer instinct. They've had multiple chances to end this - cripes, if Jori Lehtera were three millimeters more on-side, this series would be over - and yet, here we are, game seven.
Of all the first round playoff series, this one was the one to make it to seven games. Both teams are right there with each other. It's an even match-up, certainly. It's a series that will come down to puck luck and player usage as the narratives du jour. It's that one that either team can leave tonight as a victor, on the way to Dallas.
Will it be the Blues? Ken Hitchcock's player management strategy isn't working against Joel Quenneville's - with the Blues getting the last change and favorable matchups, will Hitch modify his deployment? Will we see him give Vladimir Tarasenko carte blanche? Tarasenko has been giving the Blackhawks fits this series - he has four goals and two assists. The Hawks can't defend against the guy. Get him out there.
The defense needs to be tight tonight. Alex Pietrangelo has been an absolute stud, but Saturday night was one of Kevin Shattenkirk's worst games as a member of the Blues, contributing to the second period collapse from hell.
Speaking of second periods, the Blues need to tighten up and play a full 60 minutes. The Blackhawks have outshot the Blues in the second 99 to 68, and have outscored them 10-3. The Blues have the third period edge in goals, but it's just a 7-5 margin. Let's not rely too much on that #roarbacon narrative tonight. Get into a position to close the game out early, then maintain that position.
Tonight is the perfect opportunity for the Blues to reshape fan expectations, and to reshape the path of this franchise in a positive way. A loss means a shake-up, a restructuring, a new look come September's pre-season games. A win means a chance to shut up naysayers, and to finally give fans a chance to safely believe.