By Brad Vandenberk
After an absolute stellar performance from Corey Crawford on Monday night at the UC, it was time to bottle up that momentum and save it for a pivotal Game 4 also hosted by the Blackhawks. Crow made 34 saves to record his 2nd career playoff shutout in front of 22,000 strong. The absence of suspended defensemen Brent Seabrook was barely even noticeable.
The Hawks found a way to win on the backs of their strong defense, fearless power play and tremendous net minding. Now breathe with me. There is still a lot of hill left to climb in this series and most of it to be done without #7.
Sheldon Brookbank took Seabrook’s place and was a welcomed replacement playing alongside Duncan Keith. This proves once again that the Hawks have depth that they can utilize at their disposal. After Jonathan Toews squeaked one through Ryan Miller it was time to hold on for dear life. The Blues are beginning to witness why this Hawks squad won the Stanley Cup just 14 months ago.
Michal Handzus, Nick Leddy, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson were beasts on the penalty kill disturbing shooting lanes and taking pucks off of every extremity known to man. Now, I know it can be said that David Backes was not on the visitor’s side for Game 3 and it made a world of difference. However, even with the pesky center in the lineup the Hawks still controlled most of the series with a few last minute miscues and well overtime can be anybody’s game.
We now shift our focus to Game 4 and what needs to be accomplished in order to head back to St Louis with an even series. Coach Q announced on Tuesday that the duo of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews would reunite moving forward possibly giving the Blues a more difficult match up head to head. Crawford needs to continue his streak, notice I’m not saying the jinx word? He knows he needs to be better in order to keep this series close and Miller, well all the pressure is on him to perform and after seeing Toews slide one through his pads from half court, the tail is in the telling. Blues coach tried to play some mind tricks this afternoon not giving an inch when asked about David Backes. All eyes watched as the teams took the ice for warm ups, and sure enough Blues #42 was nowhere to be found, officially scratched for the second game in a row. Also announced today was the series ending for Blues forward Brandon Morrow with a lower body injury.
The Hawks wanted to stick to the game plan and play “their” game. The Blues did push back off the opening draw but it didn’t take long for the Hawks to counter. Maxim Lapierre was definitely present finishing a check on Brookbank, which was reminiscent of last game when he slammed him from behind. Brookbank comes to his feet and just stares at the ref, palms up. Miller plays a puck well beyond his crease and the Hawks get the fans up in their seats but the shot goes wide. Kevin Shattenkirk fumbles a puck and Kane steals it again, Miller makes the save. The Blues continue their sloppy play when TJ Oshie coughs a puck sending Kane in once again with Miller needing to be strong with the Hawks coming hard. Domination begins with a lot of Hawks offensive zone time. A battle in front of Miller has the puck spitting out to a wide open Patrick Sharp but the ref loses it and blows the play dead. Marian Hossa looks like a man on some sort of mission. He walks out from the corner uncontested and Miller slides across. Steve Ott and Handzus battle behind the play and both of them head off with Ott getting the extra 2 throwing his gloves off and trying to fight Handzus. Both teams get a chance on the Hawks power play. Kris Versteeg tips a point shot from Michal Rozsival and Jaden Schwartz almost beats Crawford. Bryan Bickell rips one off the post. As the period is about to end Johnny Oduya takes an interference penalty. Crawford stands strong when Patrik Berglund tries to screen Crawford. The period ends with the Hawks leading the period in shots 13-8.
Just a 1:44 into the middle frame, Rozsival heads off for hooking. The Hawks are forced to kill their second power play. Crawford makes a huge save on a redirected shot. Kane and Andrew Shaw break in on a 2 on 1 and Kane keeps the puck firing it wide. Shaw is next to see the open door of the penalty box. He gives and extra punch to the back of Ott’s head and gets caught for roughing. The penalty kill is superb. Kane, Keith and Marcus Kruger break in on a 3 on 1 but Miller again makes the save. Lapierre sticks his knee out on Sharp and now it’s the Hawks turn to capitalize on the man advantage. Shaw redeems himself batting a puck out of the air past Miller 1-0 for his first point of the series and it’s a power play goal. The home team can’t seem to stay out of the box. Bickell falls awkwardly and gets his stick up in the face of Alex Pietrangelo and goes for high sticking. Crawford makes some unbelievable saves. Oduya grabs a puck and speeds into the zone. He finds a wide open Kane across the ice and Kaner makes no mistake beating Miller 2-0. Then the wheels fall off. With 1:16 left in the period Kane sends a puck over the glass and gives the Blues their 5th power play of the game. Vladimir Tarasenko slips one past Crawford getting the Blues to within 2. Then with 3.1 seconds left Lapierre has one roll off Crow’s back and past the goal line 2-2. The period ends with a lot of shocked faces. Hawks continue to lead in shots 19-18.
The Blues come out absolutely flying to open the period. So much so that they start to wreak havoc in the Hawks zone, giving the Hawks all kinds of troubles attempting to clear the puck. The Hawks finally get a little jump in their step as Crawford continues to make some key saves. The rough play continued when Alex Steen takes Versteeg down with an elbow to the chops. There was no call on the play. Coach Q begins to start mixing up the lines splitting Kane and Toews up. Schwartz gets 2 chances on Crawford wide open in front of the net, Crawford again stands pat. Saad jumps over the boards and gets a shot on net, the Blues break out the other way and Tarasenko finds the back of the net on the short side of Crawford with 7:33 left in the period 3-2. Toews centers Bickell and Hossa and it pays off, Toews takes this line and fore check’s his face off. The puck gets back to the point and Rozsival sends a puck with eyes from the point and Bickell tips it past Miller igniting the UC tying the game at 3 with 3:52 left in the game. Bickell gets another great chance walking over the blue line but his shot is tipped high over the net. The Hawks will now try and exercise their demons trying to get a win in overtime. The Hawks trail in shots 31-28.
Over time starts when Bickell delivered a thunderous hit on Vladimir Sobotka leaving the winger dazed and confused on the ice. He actually got back in the play and made a game saver before taking a knee and heading to the dressing room, he did return. Ben Smith was left open in front of Miller but could not beat the hot net minder. Kane was determined to end this game himself. He walks in with Smith and leaves the puck and Smith again can’t finish the game. Kane even rings one off the crossbar. Saad also has a few chances to win it but sends a backhander over the net. Sharp hits Lapierre pretty hard, and he takes his time getting to his feet. Finally Kane makes it count. He slowly walks over the blue line waiting for his teammates to arrive. He keeps the puck and elects to shoot beating Miller on the short side winning the game 4-3 and tying the series at 2.
Bickell Toews Kane Keith Brookbank
Sharp Handzus Hossa Oduya Hjalmarsson
Versteeg Shaw Saad Leddy Rozsival
Bollig Kruger Smith
-Hawks barely outshot the Blues 34-33
-Hawks go 1/2 on the power play, Blues go 1/5.
-Hjalmarsson leads all Hawks in TOI with 28:43 with Keith not too far behind 28:17.
-Toews went 12/23 in the faceoff dot Handzus 3/11, Shaw 5/9 and Kruger 6/7.
-Kane has a huge game getting the game winning goal and notching 2 Goals and 1 assist.
-Hawks now head into St Louis on Friday to try and beat the Blues and steal home ice. This will be Seabrook’s last suspended game.