The Stanley Cup playoffs are already starting with Cup-worthy match-ups in the first round. One of them has the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks starting the playoffs on the road against the St. Louis Blues, who were doomed to this pairing by losing their last six regular season games. But the playoffs offered a fresh start for the Blues, which they finally took after three overtimes of Game 1 with the Blackhawks on April 17.
St. Louis needed a last-minute goal to force overtime with Chicago, then waited two more periods before Alexander Steen finally scored in the first minute of the third overtime. The 4-3 win helped erase the horrible end of the regular season for the Blues, and put the Blackhawks on notice.
Given Chicago's playoff experience and Stanley Cup rings, it will take more than this for St. Louis to feel comfortable. The Blues are certainly better off now than 24 hours ago, as a loss in a game like this -- especially after the slump they've been on -- could have destroyed them.
Game 1 of the most anticipated first round series of the Stanley Cup playoffs didn't take long to live up to the hype. Five goals were scored in the first period alone, with Patrick Kane capping the scoring for the Blackhawks to give them a 3-2 lead. Both teams were shut out for the next 40 minutes, until Jaden Schwartz kept the Blues alive with just under two minutes to spare.
The two rivals went back on a scoring drought after that, as St. Louis's Ryan Miller and Chicago's Corey Crawford stood tall for 40 more minutes until Steen ended the duel. Yet if Game 1 was any indication, the battle has just begun between the Blues and Blackhawks, as expected.
Even if St. Louis survives, it will take a lot to dethrone Chicago -- and further remind the Blues that they never should have had to face the Blackhawks this soon in the first place. But given how the eventual Central Division champion Colorado Avalanche needed a comeback and one overtime to survive the Minnesota Wild on April 17, getting out of the Central bracket will be grueling either way.
The Stanley Cup playoffs already have the Blues and Blackhawks setting a high bar after one game. One can only imagine what bar they'd set after five or six more.