By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Just as the Blackhawks are renown for their success of recent years, the Blues are viewed for the opposite.
Three straight seasons in St. Louis have ended in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After stealing Game 4 in Chicago and taking a 3-1 series lead, it seemed as if St. Louis was destined to end that streak. Then, Patrick Kane scored a remarkable wrap-around goal in the second overtime to win Game 5 for the Blackhawks, 4-3.
Suddenly, the Blackhawks and Blues are back in Chicago for Saturday’s Game 6.
“Just looking at the past, the team has a lot of pressure to make it past the first round,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “We’re still very hungry to go in a deep playoff run here. We’re not satisfied in any way by what we’ve accomplished in the past. It’s all about now.
“They’re feeling the pressure.”
Blues captain David Backes spoke of his team’s fighting spirit following the Game 3 win at the United Center, then reminded they hadn’t accomplished anything yet. The Blues then went on to their second straight comeback road victory against the Blackhawks, who lost their composure in Game 4.
If the Blues are indeed a different team from their past, it’s time for them to prove it by beating the Blackhawks.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks are extraordinarily confident, something that comes with three championships in six seasons. Newcomer Dale Weise was blown away by the poise of his teammates.
“Watching the last couple years as a fan of this team, you just see the resilience that they have,” Weise said. “There never seems to be any panic. Being a part of it, you see why they’ve had so much success. There’s just an unwavering confidence about the team, no matter what the score is, the time of the game. There’s just no panic.”
Panic never seeped in when the Blackhawks fell into a 3-1 hole. Much of the current roster was in place when Chicago overcame a 3-1 deficit against Detroit during the Western Conference semifinals in 2013, winning Game 7 in overtime. The Blackhawks would go on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks can fall back on their championship experience any time. The Blues are just trying to put their rival away with one win.
“There’s no doubt that the longer the series goes, the more pressure there is on that team,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “At the end of the day, they’re as hungry as ever.”
Part of the Blackhawks’ confidence comes from the fact that they could have better hockey in their system, or so they believe.
History has proved that the Blackhawks get better late in series, with coach Joel Quenneville making necessary adjustments and fine-tuning his team’s plan.
The Blackhawks are a win on home ice away from forcing a Game 7 after falling behind 3-1. They feel the series is turning in their favor, while the Blues are fighting to finally move on.
“We’ve been playing some decent hockey, but I still feel we have one more level,” Hjalmarsson said. “We have to dig a little bit deeper.”