The Chicago Blackhawks struck early but couldn't sustain the momentum in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night. The loss will make it difficult for the Hawks to finish higher than third in the Central Division.
Jake Allen was stellar for St. Louis all night, saving 38 of 39 shot attempts to stifle an ongoing Chicago attack. This wasn't a game without chances for the Blackhawks, but they couldn't seem to convert after Marian Hossa found Kris Versteeg for a beautiful goal in the first period.
That would prove to be the end of Chicago's scoring, as the final two periods would see the Blues score a pair of goals. David Backes tied the game on a power play before Olli Jokinen scored the game-winner, even though there were still 25 minutes to play at that point.
The Blackhawks may end up playing the Blues in the first round of the playoffs, and this shows what a difficult matchup that would be. St. Louis is one of the few teams in the league that boasts strong depth and goaltending, and a battle between those two teams would put both defenses on their heels.
Chicago's chances of finishing any higher in the conference took a blow, meanwhile. The Blues are now first in the division with 105 points, while the Predators are at 104 points and the Hawks are at 102 points. All three teams have played 79 games, so there's not much room for anyone to separate from here. If that means a first-round matchup against St. Louis, bring it on, but I don't think anyone would consider that an easy matchup.