Didn't think I'd be writing my recap at midnight, but so it goes in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Blackhawks and Blues played an instant classic that took 100:26 to declare a winner. Unlike the last 3 OT game we saw the Hawks play in, the good guys did not come out on the right end.
The Blues and Blackhawks took the lead from the teams who played on Wednesday and played a wild opening period. It didn't take long for the Blues to score the first goal of the series as they took advantage of Michal Handzus losing an edge and/or tripping over his walker. Chris Porter took the original shot from the left circle but Corey Crawford could not control the rebound and Adam Cracknell was in the right place for his first career playoff goal at 4:40. Johnny Oduya would tie the game up at 11:14. Brandon Saad won a board battle with playoff legend Jay Bouwmeester and made a nice cross ice pass to Oduya who buried a shot past Ryan Miller from the left dot. Kris Versteeg was originally credited with a redirect but it was changed back to Oduya during the intermission. The Blackhawks would get a power play a couple of minutes later after Barret Jackman took a really dumb interference penalty. Brent Seabrook would give the Hawks their first lead of the night with a power play goal at 14:39. After Versteeg and Nick Leddy played an nice game of catch with the puck, Steeger went behind the Blues net and found Seabrook who fired a one timer past Miller from below the right dot. Vladimir Tarasenko would tie the game just over a minute later. A Marcus Kruger neutral zone turnover led to Kevin Shattenkirk finding Tarasenko in the left circle who sniped a shot past Crawford. Patrick Kane would give the Hawks the lead back at 18:24 when he pulled the "cherry pick at center ice" move out of the Alex Ovechkin playbook. Miller must have been reading the pretty ads on the dasher boards because was caught off guard as Kaner went 5 hole.
The Blackhawks came out and used their two greatest weapons, speed and puck possession, to start the 2nd period. They had a long extended shift in the Blues zone but could not get the insurance goal. At the time I was worried that not scoring during that sequence would haunt them and I hate that I would be proven right. After the fast start by the Hawks, the period slowed down into the type of game most of us expected to see. The Blues only got three shots on goal in the 2nd period, but they could have easily scored on all three of them if it wasn't for big saves by Corey Crawford.
The Hawks still had a 3-2 lead going into the 3rd period. They would get back to back power plays in the first half of the period but couldn't score the first one and the second was cut short by a Patrick Kane high stick. The second half of the 3rd period saw the Blackhawks go into a "play not to lose" strategy instead of continuing to pressure the Blues. It's funny how the team that plays not to lose usually ends up losing. Jaden Schwartz tied the game with just 1:45 left in the 3rd and it was a goal that you felt coming for quite awhile. Niklas Hjalmarsson had the puck taken away from in the corner by Derek Roy, who found Schwartz out front. Schwartz just flung the puck on net to see what happens and it went right between the legs of Corey Crawford.
Both teams had chances in the first two overtime periods. The Blues got lucky that Maxim Lapierre can't skate and was pushed between Ryan Miller by Brandon Saad to stop a Kris Versteeg shot from going in the net during the first overtime. Patrick Sharp had a breakaway chance in the second overtime, but unlike in the 1st period, Miller was actually awake on this one and made the safe. Alex Steen put us all out of misery 26 seconds into the 3rd OT when he elevated the puck over Corey Crawford after a nice set up from expert leg slasher Steve Ott.
Just a few quick observations because it's freakin' late!
* Neither Patrick Kane or Jonathan Toews showed too much rust from missing the last few games. Kane looked a little hesitant at first but as the game went on he seemed to gain confidence in his leg. Toews was his usual self but he took a huge hit in the first overtime from Ryan Reeves and favored his injured arm while sporting a cut above his nose. Look, there are plenty of reasons to hate Reaves, but that hit was not one of them.
* That was the best Kris Versteeg has looked since he was traded back to Chicago in November. Don't know if it was getting back to the playoffs or hearing the footsteps of Jeremy Morin behind him, but more of that please.
* Marian Hossa looked a bit off Thursday night. There were a few plays where he looked a little slow and was checked off the puck more than we are used to seeing. No way that happens two games in a row.
* Michal Handzus was awful, even to his standards. Please play Peter Regin Saturday afternoon.
* Best part of the night was Niklas Hjalmarsson laying out David Backes. Second best part of the night was Q's crotch grab. The third best part of the night was seeing a bunch of Blues "fans" pick TJ Oshie to score the game winning goal in overtime. Rock on, kids!
* If Brandon Bollig isn't going to win a board battle, then what's the point?
* Things will go rather nicely if guys like Reaves, Backes and Barret Jackman keep going out of their way to make big hits that lead to scoring chances for the Hawks. Be encouraged that the Blackhawks played a below average game and it still took 100:26 for the Blues to win. The goal of these first two games was to win one on their ice and you can still do that. Saturday is a huge game and I fully expect an answer from the Blackhawks.
Players of the Game
Any time a game goes into multiple overtimes it is because both goaltenders were on their game. The 1st period had Blues fans wishing Jaroslav Halak was still on the team, but Ryan Miller was money for the final 80 minutes plus of the game. Corey Crawford was a shaky to start the game and his rebound control left a lot to be desired but he settled down as well. He seemed to gain his confidence after a late 1st period Blues power play where he made a couple of big saves through a ton of traffic. Crow made a bunch of great saves and quite a few with that shitty glove hand of his, right NBC? This is a good sign of things to come.
It's too late for the advanced stats, but trust me it wasn't pretty.