The Chicago Blackhawks lost a disappointing game earlier this week to open their 2016 NHL playoffs. The defending champions, stuck with a road series thanks to a third-place finish in the Central Division, dropped an overtime decision in St. Louis on Wednesday night. However, veteran-laden Chicago answered back on Friday as they stole home-ice advantage with a 3-2 win.
Don Cherry, speaking on Coach’s Corner on Thursday night, wasn’t too impressed with how Chicago lost game one. The long-time CBC commentator felt that Trevor van Riemsdyk made a novice error in the overtime session of that game.
The defenseman was deep in his own zone and allowed his skate to enter his own goal’s crease. A centering pass from David Backes found that skate and the puck redirected in for the overtime sudden-death winner, the game’s only goal. According to Cherry, d-men are taught not to allow their skates to get into that kind of position, likely because the redirects effectively leave goaltenders with no time to react.
You have to wonder if Duncan Keith would have made that mistake if given the chance in Game 1. The likely future Hall of Famer was out serving a suspension, but he returned in Game 2, and he was a big part of Chicago’s Friday-night victory.
Even if you throw out his assist on an empty-netter, the defenseman still had Chicago’s opening goal at a time in the game when St. Louis had just seized control with a late first-period goal of their own. That kind of momentum robbing can be huge in the NHL playoffs, and Keith was central to it.
But, Keith’s return aside, Game 2 will likely generate some buzz for the balance of the calls. Two pivotal officiating decisions went against St. Louis. Specifically, the Blues had a second-period goal called back following a successful challenge from Chicago regarding an offside call. Then, late in the game, Chicago took a 2-1 lead and St. Louis’ own challenge for goaltender interference was unsuccessful. However, both of the calls that went against St. Louis seemed to be the correct ones. Where the good luck was with them in Game 1 in regard to a lucky bounce, the bad luck seemed to be with them in Game 2.
These two teams will have an off day on Saturday, but their series will resume on Sunday at the United Center (3 pm ET). The Blues seem like they could be a deflated team as the edge they fought hard for is now squandered (i.e.,. home-ice advantage).
Their own fans seemed silenced, even in mourning, following the loss in Game 2. It might be that Chicago’s playoff reputation looms so large that even a 1-1 tied series looks fairly uneven still. If that’s the case, then Chicago’s mental grip on the Blues might be a huge edge in a series that, on paper, actually looks pretty even.