(CBS) — For Blackhawk fans, Thursday night’s 4-3 triple overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues hurt like hell.
It looked like they were poised to escape with a win until Jaden Schwartz tied the game with 1:45 left.
There was a lot of good, and a lot of bad for the Blackhawks.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of Thursday’s loss was the play of Jonathan Toews. The captain finished the night with 2 assists, including a beautiful 100 foot pass to set up Patrick Kane’s breakaway goal.
He also had 4 shots on goal and won 21 of his 32 faceoffs. Yes, he was on the ice for the game-tying and game-winning goals, but I have trouble blaming anyone but Johnny Oduya for either of those. A weak Oduya pass led to the game-tying goal, while indecisive defense led to the winner.
In Toews’ frequent battles with David Backes, he emerged the winner more often than not. He controlled the puck and was able to easily slip away from the big Blues captain. He’s going to have to continue that dominance if the Hawks are going to win this series.
Corey Crawford had a solid game as well. He made multiple highlight reel saves. Often in hockey, highlight reel saves are the result of poor positioning by the goaltender, but that was not the case Thursday. Crawford was solidly positioned on nearly every shot attempt. The big saves came off blocks, deflections or rebounds. We saw what happened last summer when Crawford elevated his play.
Kane’s goal went a long way in clearing up any concerns about his health. He demonstrated the speed Hawks fans have become accustomed to seeing from the star winger. I do think he wasn’t fully comfortable on the knee brace early on. He was hesitant to engage contact or attempt to split the defense of the Blues, but as the game went on Kane got more comfortable.
These performances aside, I think most of the Hawks would like to have that game back. The Blues absolutely dominated the puck possession game, generating almost 20 more shot attempts (Corsi : 103-84) than their Chicago counterparts.
Michal Handzus looked slower than ever, and his “blowout” in the first period directly led to the Blues’ first goal of the night. Oduya was a defensive disaster despite scoring a goal. Patrick Sharp had some great looks, but wasn’t able to score. Even Marian Hossa had some puck control issues. With all of that, it still took the Blues three overtimes and a miraculous save by Max Lapierre to get the Blues the win.
That has to be encouraging to the Blackhawks.
Their best hockey should be coming, but Game Two is crucial. I can’t imagine the Hawks winning the series if they go down 2-0 in the series. Remember, the Blues were the best team in the league for 85 percent of the season. Injuries and a losing streak made many forget that fact. Thursday was a cruel reminder.