There was plenty of frustration evident for the Blackhawks after two games in St. Louis. They head back to Chicago tomorrow down 2-0 in their first round best of seven series.
In Game 1, the Blackhawks were valiant as they rallied back from down 1-0 and 2-1 to take a 3-2 lead. However, they could not hold onto the lead as the Blues scored with 1:45 left to tie the game and the Blues would win the game on a nifty passing play from David Backes, Steve Ott and Alexander Steen led to the game winner in triple overtime.
From the outset of Game 2, there was a different mentality from the Blackhawks. After giving up a goal with 1.6 seconds remaining, the Blackhawks entered the second period down 2. Lacking confidence, the Blackhawks proceeded to take dumb penalty after dumb penalty. The Blackhawks took three penalties in a row during a span of 4:27 in the first part of the period. Being able to overcome this stupidity was miraculous.
Eventually the Blackhawks were able to take the lead in the early part of the third period. Then the parade of stupidity continued as another string of Blackhawks went to the penalty box. Bryan Bickell was sent to the penalty box for kneeing Vladimir Sobotka when he could have just performed a body check. Then Brent Seabrook nailed Backes with a shoulder that laid out Backes. Seabrook came from above the faceoff circle to check Backes who had lost the puck two seconds earlier and was turning to identify the puck. Predictably, Seabrook was thrown out of the game for charging. Earlier today, the Blackhawks were informed that Seabrook will be suspended for three games and the availability of Backes tomorrow is uncertain at this time.
This left the Blackhawks shorthanded on a 5 on 3 for 46 seconds and 5 on 4 for five minutes with 4:51 remaining in the game. For 4:45 the Blackhawks were brilliant on the penalty kill until Vladimir Tarasenko struck with 6.4 seconds remaining to tie the game.
In the second game of a series on the road when you are up in a game and down in the series, the Blackhawks let their emotions get the best of them. There was no need for Bickell to stick out his knee. Then when you are a man down, that is the absolute wrong time to try to deliver a hit on Backes. Everyone knows that Backes is an annoying player; however, from where Seabrook started to skate towards Backes, it was going to be a penalty because that is the definition of charging.
It’s great to want to send a message but you have to send it appropriately. The Blackhawks didn’t respond after Jonathan Toews was laid out by Brooks Orpik. There was much debate and while I may favor a physical response in the form of a scrum or pushing and shoving. You don’t have to jump a guy or skate from halfway across the offensive zone to lay him out. Make it a clean hit that Backes will feel.
What great message did this send? It gave the Blues a five minute power play and allowed them to tie the game and then win it in overtime. Great response. It’s rare to see the Blackhawks lose their composure. Often they are accused of not being responsive at all but in Game 2, they seemed to be determined to deliver a message of physicality that resulted in them compiling a season high 41 penalty minutes.
If the Blackhawks are going to rebound and get back in the series, they will need to overcome their frustrations. It was apparent that Steen not getting penalized for jumping Seabrook after the hit on Backes did not sit well with the Blackhawks.
“It’s their call, it’s their judgment, five minutes that’s fine, but their guy comes flying in, throws his gloves off and starts throwing punches like crazy,” said Crawford. “I don’t know why nothing was called there. Calling five minutes is fine; you got your point across. Apparently guys are allowed to come flying into a scrum and that’s fine, that’s okay…whatever.”
No penalty was called on Steen during the fracas. But the Blackhawks cannot respond to any frustration to the Blues throwing their bodies around by taking dumb penalties. You beat teams on the scoreboard not physically.
Two games in St. Louis resulted in two “brutal” losses according to Joel Quenneville. But the beauty of the playoffs is that you get two games on your home ice to answer back. Win those games and this is a new series after Wednesday. In order to do that, the Blackhawks will have to show more composure and not allow their frustration to get the best of them.