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Blackhawks Mon Apr 28 2014
After six grueling games against the St. Louis Blues, a series that mirrored a Western Conference-Finals matchup in intensity and physicality, the Hawks clamped down on defense and broke out in scoring to win four straight against a dangerous team.
Out of those six games, there were four that went into overtime -- the first of which that went three overtimes -- and an 0-2 hole that didn't look very promising to coach Joel Quenneville and fans at home. The defense played on the backs of its skates and looked hesitant in its own defensive zone, allowing the Blues to whatever it wanted to offensively.
The only glimmer of hope was comparing what the Blues did last season against the Los Angeles Kings in their opening round of play: the Blues went up 2-0; the Kings fought back and won four straight to take the series. It didn't seem very likely, but now the Hawks find themselves awaiting its next opponent in round two, when exactly one week ago, fans were looking into purchasing Cubs or Sox tickets.
After a grueling first five games of this series, at least Game 6 provided a little respite from the second period on due to the outbreak in scoring that Hawks fans have been waiting for since the series began. A 5-1 final sent the Blues home in what probably was one of the better games played defensively in this series.
Coming into the game, all eyes were on defenseman Brent Seabrook, who made his return after a three-game suspension for his hit on David Backes. However, it was defenseman Duncan Keith, the game's number one star and likely Norris Trophy winner, who led the way for the big win.
"I've been around here for six years and [Keith]...that might have been the best game I've ever seen him play," Quenneville said after the game.
After T.J. Oshie tied the game up in the first period, the shots Corey Crawford faced were minimal, a welcomed sight for a goalie that kept this team in it the entire series. Crawford stopped 26 of 27 shots faced in Game 6, while the Hawks shot 36 at "Miller Time," who was only able to stop 31.
Those numbers alone show that the Hawks were able to do a better job of puck control in their own defensive zone, a problem that cost them games one and two, and nearly the series. And while waiting to see whom they'll play in round two, another growing issue the Hawks need to address is all the penalties they've committed against St. Louis.
Of the 16 teams that made the postseason, the Hawks are fifth in total penalties with 32, and that translates to 14.2 penalty minutes per during those six games. Thankfully, the Blues were fifteenth in power-play opportunities at only 6.9 percent (one for 18). And while Colorado is dead last (5.6 percent) and Minnesota isn't all that much better (13.3 percent), you can bet those numbers eventually will even out if given that many chances come next round.
It was a big win for the Hawks, and, quite frankly, extremely impressive this team has the ability to adjust as it has. We've seen it last year against the Red Wings and then in the Cup Final against the Bruins -- the Hawks have this ability to tighten up loose ends and come back fighting with impressive results.
It was good to see Jonathan Toes and Patrick Kane have a good series. Both have a combined six goals and seven assists for 13 points. Not to mention, the knack for timely scoring when it absolutely counts that will live in everyone's memory for years to come.
If you're drained now after the emotional roller coaster that was the first round, get your rest now. There are still three more rounds left before they'd be able to stake claim as a true dynasty by winning back-to-back Cups. The Avs are in Minnesota tonight for their Game 6 matchup, and if coach Roy's team can win on the road, it'll be another rough and physical series ahead for the Hawks.