By Nick Jacquin, Sports Writer
If the first round matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks was any indication of what is to come in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we are in for a very intense and exciting couple of weeks. What a series it was between two of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
After finishing the regular season 49-24-9, the Blues hosted the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks in the best of seven series. After the two teams split games one and two in St. Louis, the series shifted to Chicago where the Blues did something most teams don’t normally do in Chicago – beating the Hawks twice at the United Center in the postseason. Chicago responded with two more wins leading to the decisive game 7, which was decided on Monday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
St. Louis was able to get off to a fast start, scoring in the first minute of the game, on a goal by center Jori Lehtera, his first-career playoff goal. It was exactly what the home crowd came to see after four years of failing to make it out of the first round.
It was a physical game and fast paced on both ends, but the Blues embraced the challenge against the more skilled Blackhawks. Colton Parayko was able to make it 2-0 when Patrik Berglund weaved through Patrick Kane, and sent it over to the rookie defenseman, who sent a hard slap shot past goalie Corey Crawford. And just like that, St. Louis had a two-goal advantage.
But, just like they did the entire series, Chicago would not let the Blues pull away without a fight. They were able to tie it up just over 3 minutes into the second period. First, it was a power play goal by Marian Hossa and then again shortly after on a funky ricochet off St. Louis’ Jay Bouwmeester. Andrew Shaw was credited with the goal to tie it up 2-2. The score would remain tied after 40 minutes.
Thus, it came down to the third period to decide who would advance. Both teams encountered multiple chances to take the lead but it was former Blackhawk, Troy Brower, sending home the game-winner with 11:29 remaining in the game, bringing the home crowd to its feet.
Chicago nearly tied it up with just 3:30 left in the game when Brent Seabrook sent a shot past Blues goalie, Brian Elliott. The shot hit both posts, missing the go-ahead goal by about an inch, leaving the Blues fans in total shock. It turned out to be the break the team needed in the series to wrap it up. They did just that, knocking out their bitter rival by a score of 3-2.
St. Louis will now advance to play the Dallas Stars, who defeated the Minnesota Wild in 6 games. The time and dates have not been formally announced at time of publication but games one and two will be played at the American Airlines Center in Dallas before going to St. Louis for the next two. St. Louis did take the season series, going 4-1 with the lone loss coming on a 3-0 win in Dallas on December 27th.