By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Each season, the Blackhawks build on to a roster capable of winning the Stanley Cup, then take the ice for playoff hockey stuck hoping and praying.
Sure, the Blackhawks have more talent on their roster than just about any other team in hockey — Hall of Fame players all over the place — but talent alone doesn’t win championships. That Chicago has taken three titles in six seasons is a hockey miracle of sorts.
Winning the Stanley Cup requires good health and better fortunes. The Blackhawks didn’t have puck luck on their side in the playoff-opening 1-0 overtime loss to the Blues on Wednesday night in St. Louis in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I thought we played exactly the right way, what we’re looking to do,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after the game. “We didn’t take advantage of the chances we had.”
The Blackhawks played a crisp game, bringing their best effort and focus. For the most part, they avoided silly mistakes, and their past experience translated to postseason poise. If anything, Game 1 showed that the Blackhawks and Blues could be headed for seven games, with their contrasting styles of play creating an intriguing playoff matchup.
Throughout regulation and into overtime, the Blackhawks had opportunities to win it. The Blues did, too. It was a strange play that won it for St. Louis.
Blues captain David Backes took a dish parallel to Corey Crawford’s goal and attempted to pass across the ice. It ricocheted off the skate of Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and pinballed past Crawford to win the game.
Go figure: 69 minutes of battling at a playoff level, coming close on several scoring chances, and a fluke wins the game for the Blues.
The Blues hardly won the game, and the Blackhawks didn’t lose the game — don’t blame van Riemsdyk, either. This was simply hockey in action.
Inherently random, hockey works in mysterious ways. Games are constantly won and lost with the bizarre bounces and breaks.
When it comes to the postseason, all a team can do is give maximum effort, let the top talent shine and hope the puck luck is on its side.
Credit to the Blues, who were terrific defensively. They kept the Blackhawks out of the slot and cut off the blue line, forcing Chicago’s quickness to call an audible. The Blackhawks struggled to play their game, relying on their own defense and some big saves from Crawford.
Brian Elliott stood tall in the St. Louis net, stopping each of the 35 shots on goal he faced. His save of the night came on a quick chance for Calder Trophy favorite Artemi Panarin, who had a power-play goal coming to win the game in overtime. instead, Elliott got his stick in place and made a remarkable save.
No, puck luck wasn’t on the Blackhawks’ side in Wednesday’s opener. It plays the role in any playoff series, where competition is fierce and overshadowed by these odd fortunes. Patrick Kane’s game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final was good puck luck. Los Angeles’ Alec Martinez’s game-winner in overtime during Game 7 of the 2014 Western Conference Final — in which he banked a shot off the jersey of Nick Leddy and in — was poor puck luck for Chicago.
The Blackhawks could have four championships in six seasons, and they could have fewer — hockey’s randomness often decides games, series and who hoists the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks have the makeup of a champion. Game 1 didn’t do a talented team any favors.
“It’s one game,” Quenneville said.
“Let’s look to get even.”