The Chicago Blackhawks kicked off their postseason title defense on Wednesday night against the St. Louis Blues, falling in overtime by a score of 1-0. David Backes scored for the overtime winner for the Blues. Corey Crawford made 17 saves on 18 shots in the loss. Chicago now trails the best-of-seven series by a score of one game to none. This is the fifth straight year that the Blackhawks' first playoff game has gone to overtime.
The first period saw a decent amount of back and forth play, in large part to both teams taking multiple penalties. The Blackhawks went down a man first after Viktor Svedberg got beat wide and took a holding call trying to stop the Blues' rush. The Hawks killed that one off and found themselves on the man advantage shortly after. After failing to score, the Blues quickly took another penalty, and then another penalty just a minute and a half later to give Chicago a 5 on 3. The Hawks couldn't capitalize, though, and after killing off another penalty of their own, the first period ended with the game still scoreless.
The second period was much the same as the first. Both teams generated some solid scoring chances, but neither could solve the opposing goalie. The Hawks took two penalties in the middle frame but were able to survive them both. This period did see some exciting moments, though, as Jonathan Toews found himself spearheading multiple rushes, only to be rebuffed by Bryan Elliot every time. Later, after Vladimir Tarasenko fooled Crawford with a shot fake only to make a nice pass, Toews got in the way of a Jaden Schwartz shot at a wide open net to keep the game scoreless.
The game remained scoreless as the third period got underway, and the play saw more of the same. The Blackhawks controlled the puck for a good pod portion of the period, earning a shot attempt advantage of 22-9 in the frame, but couldn't find the back of the net. They kept the Blues shutout, too, and the game went to overtime still scoreless.
The Hawks got an early power play in OT when Colton Parayko fired a puck over the boards and out of play just seven seconds after puck drop. However, the Hawks couldn't capitalize yet again, as the power play fell to an abysmal 0-for-5 on the night. After both teams traded chances back and forth, the Blues were able to sustain some zone time around the nine minute mark of the period. Backes got a hold of the puck and attempted a cross ice pass that re-directed off of Trevor van Riemsdyk and past Crawford to give the Blues the win.
Despite the unfavorable result, this was largely a good game for the Blackhawks. They controlled the even strength shot attempts, nearly doubled the Blues in shots on goal with a 35-18 advantage, and were perfect on the power play. They did all of that without their most important skater in Duncan Keith. Where Keith's absence was most obvious, though, was on the power play. Again, the Hawks had five chances with the man advantage tonight and were unable to capitalize on any of them.
The biggest issues for the Blackhawks power play was their complete inability to create shooting lanes due to lack of mobility. All five skaters were standing around or hardly moving, making the Blues' positional adjustments much easier. With Keith on the power play, he tends to play floater and create a lot more movement. Luckily for Chicago, Keith will be back for Friday's Game 2. His presence will certainly be a welcome one.
The Blackhawks are now down 1-0 in the series. Game 2 is Friday in St. Louis, with puck drop for that one scheduled for 7:00 p.m. CT.
Adam Hess is a staff writer at Second City Hockey. Follow him on Twitter at @_adamhess.