Blues goaltender Jake Allen (34) makes a glove save. (Photo courtesy: John Woods, CP)
The Stage: United Center, Chicago, IL
St. Louis, 40-18-10 1st place in the Central Division at Chicago 31-29-8, 7th place in the Central Division
St. Louis arrives in Chicago with a chance to sweep the season series, something they have never done before. They’ll be without Justin Faulk tonight, who is suffering from an upper body injury. The Blues lost to New Jersey Friday night, ending their 8 game winning streak, but they maintain a 2-point lead over Colorado in the Central Division.
Chicago is in last place in the central, but are not completely out of the playoff hunt if they can stay hot. While they sit 6 points behind Vancouver and Nashville for a wildcard spot, Chicago had won four in a row before losing at Detroit 2-1 Friday night.
In an evenly contested period, each team came up empty on a power play. Unlike the 6-5 contest the Blues won on home ice back on February 25th, this game has much more of a defensive feel, with scoring chances few and far between. In his return to the lineup, MacKenzie MacEachern may have had the Blues’ best chance about halfway through the period, but Corey Crawford shut him down at the doorstep. Oskar Sundqvist had a good shorthanded chance with 2 minutes left in the period, but Crawford sticked his shot aside.
Drake Caggiula had a short handed chance for Chicago with 6 minutes left in the period, but Jake Allen stopped his shot and the other 6 he faced in the period. The Blues survived a Hawks power play at the end of the period and there was no score after 1. The shots were even after the first, 7 aside.
If the first period lacked action, the 2nd more than made up for it. Ivan Barbashev went to the box just 36 seconds in for slashing Patrick Kane. The Blues killed the penalty and gained momentum, pinning the Blackhawks in their zone and applying pressure. Jaden Schwartz had a head of steam entering the zone, and found Sammy Blais.
Blais’ shot was stopped by Crawford but the rebound bounced around from Schwartz, to Brayden Schenn, and finally to Robert Bortuzzo at the left side of the net. From an impossible angle, Bortuzzo sent a shot high, just under the crossbar to beat Crawford and make it 1-0 Blues.
Jake Allen was showing no signs of rust, stopping everything Chicago could throw at him, including 2 outstanding saves on Brandon Saad. Saad found the puck right in front of the net and tried to jam it past Allen. Allen stretched far to make the first save, then stretched a little farther to just stop Saad’s rebound attempt with the toe of his right skate.
Moments later Chicago was back on the power play when Barbashev again went to the penalty box, this time for holding Jonathan Toews at the side of the Blues’ net. The Blues’ kill was once again up to the task, not allowing a shot until the last second, a one time attempt by Kirby Dach. Allen made the save with his right arm.
Things Got Chippy
With a little over 5 minutes left in the period, Oskar Sundqvist and Adam Boqvist collided along the boards. It seemed to be inadvertent, but Sundqvist whipped his arm up high to Boqvist’s face and Boqvist collapsed to the ice. The Blackhawks took exception to the hit and a scrum broke out along the boards. Some pushing and shoving ensued and some pleasantries were exchanged.
Just as it seemed cooler heads would prevail, round 2 of the scrum broke out which led to the main event- Drake Caggiula vs. Vince Dunn one on one. Caggiula scored some points with multiple rights early in the battle, but Dunn ended the match with 3 hard uppercuts that dropped Caggiula to the ice.
After things settled down and the officials sorted things out, the Blues had to kill a roughing minor on Sundqvist’s hit. It was originally called a double minor, but after video review the refs reduced it to a minor, evidently seeing the hit was inadvertent – much to the dismay of Blackhawks fans.
Patrick Kane nearly tied it up on the power play when his shot squirted through Allen’s pads, but Alexander Steen swept the puck out of harm’s way before it crossed the goal line. Each team had a good chance in the last 2 minutes, with Sammy Blais hitting the post with 1:40 left and Jake Allen making a great right pad save on Alex DeBrincat with 5 seconds left in the period. Through 2 periods Allen was very sharp and the Blues held a 1-0 lead.
St. Louis had chances early to make it 2-0. Barbashev was foiled on a wraparound attempt by Crawford, and 2 minutes later the Blues went on the power play, but were unable to extend the lead. Shortly after the power play ended, Chicago turned the puck over in their zone when Schenn broke up an outlet pass. Pietrangelo gathered in the loose puck and passed to Schwartz along the right boards. Schwartz sent a pinpoint pass right back to Petro who swiped it past a lunging Crawford to make it 2-0 St. Louis.
Chicago did not muster a shot on net until 7:55 remained, but from that point on they applied the pressure, sending 9 shots on Allen and forcing him to make multiple good saves. Chicago pulled Corey Crawford with 3 minutes to go and spent the majority of that time in the Blues’ zone. Alex DeBrincat had 2 more good chances, but Allen was there, like he had been all night and the Blues had a 2-0 victory in Chicago.
Summary and Notes:
For the first time in their history, the Blues swept the season series from the Blackhawks, 4 games to none.
Jake Allen was outstanding in net, stopping all 29 shots for his 2nd shutout of the season. The shutout was the 21st of Allen’s career, putting him 2nd on the Blues’ all time list behind Brian Elliott (25).
Chicago scored 3 power play goals against the Blues on February 25th, but the Blues’ penalty kill was much improved, killing all 4 Blackhawks’ power plays.
The loss for Chicago was a big blow to their postseason hopes. They are 6 points back with 13 games to play and have to climb over 4 teams in the standings to make the playoffs.
The Blues are right back at it Monday night when they host the Florida Panthers at 7pm central. The Panthers are desperate, currently 3 points back of a wild card spot in the east.
Chicago will host San Jose Wednesday night.