The Chicago Blackhawks suffered another home loss on Tuesday night, one that puts a major dent in their plans to win another Stanley Cup this season. Playing at the United Center with a chance to level their series against the St. Louis Blues at two games each, the Blackhawks were in desperate need of a win. However, Vladimir Tarasenko continues to make a name for himself as the 24-year-old Russian had two goals and an assist in Game 4.
The right winger opened the scoring in the game at 14:02 of the first period. Streaking toward the net on the right side, the forward received a pass at the faceoff dot and snapped a wrist shot passed Corey Crawford. After Chicago answered back in the second period, Tarasenko struck again late in that frame. On the power play, he again snapped a wrist shot from about the same spot to pull his team even heading into the intermission.
St. Louis scored another power-play goal early in the third and then Alexander Steen scored unassisted off of a turnover. Duncan Keith would answer back late in the third with his second goal of the game. However, the Blues would hang on for the 4-3 victory.
Head coach Ken Hitchcock now has a chance to reverse some of the recent trends in his career. This is his 5th season as coach in St. Louis and he has just one series victory to his credit during that time. It’s been numerous years since we’ve seen the former Stanley Cup champion do any significant damage in the playoffs. However, returning to St. Louis for game 5 he looks great to get a team back into the thick of things when it comes to Stanley Cup contention.
The series certainly isn’t over as the ‘hawks are a veteran-laded team with ample experience facing playoff adversity. However, Chicago’s passing has not been crisp by any stretch and St. Louis’ lead is certainly part about Chicago’s poor play. However, even if the ‘hawks start to play better St. Louis have been a tough team all season, and they have the firepower to go toe-to-toe with anyone. If the Blues can win just one of the next three games, they will set up an interesting second-round series against what looks like the Dallas Stars. The winner of that series may very well end up playing for the Stanley Cup as the Central Division teams are the tougher ones in the West this season.
Tuesday night wasn’t all about the Blues and Blackhawks. Tampa Bay extended their series lead to 3-1 over the Detroit Red Wings as the Lightning eye the second round. Pittsburgh and New York played Game 3 of their series with Pitt pulling ahead 2-1 to reclaim home-ice advantage. Lastly, the Anaheim Ducks answered the Nashville Predators in a big way as Anaheim blanked the Preds 3-0 in a game from Nashville.
Looking ahead, Wednesday-night hockey will feature the first potential clinch game of the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs. The Washington Capitals will open the night’s schedule at 7 pm ET with game four at Philadelphia. The Caps can sweep with a win, something that will allow them to sit back and await the winner of the Penguins/Rangers series. Florida and the Islanders starts at 8 pm ET (2-1 for Florida), Dallas and Minnesota play at 9:30 pm ET (2-1 for Dallas), and the Kings will be San Jose in the late game (2-1 for San Jose; 7:30 pm PT).