NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Wednesday, April 23rd
(All times Eastern)
St. Louis Blues (2-1) at Chicago Blackhawks (1-2), 9:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks cut their series' deficit in half
with a win on home ice. On Wednesday, the defending Stanley Cup champions hope
to draw even with the St. Louis Blues when they host Game 4 at United Center.
St. Louis won the first two games of this best-of-seven series on home ice,
taking both contests despite Chicago carrying a lead into the final two
minutes of the third period in each battle. The Blackhawks fell 4-3 in triple
overtime in Thursday's Game 1 before falling by the same score in the first OT
Chicago, however, shrugged off those frustrating losses to notch Monday's 2-0
home win over the Blues. Corey Crawford turned in a clutch performance for the
Blackhawks, stopping all 34 shots he faced.
Meanwhile, the only Blackhawk to score on Ryan Miller was Jonathan Toews, who
beat the St. Louis netminder with a wrister less than five minutes into
the game. The only other tally came when Marcus Kruger sealed the win by
scoring with Miller pulled in the final minute of the third period.
After allowing four goals in each of the first two games of this Western
Conference quarterfinal matchup, Crawford notched the third shutout of his
playoff career in Game 3. The 29-year-old had one shutout in a 23-game playoff
run for Chicago last spring and also posted a 1.84 goals against average in
the 2013 playoffs to help the Blackhawks win their second Stanley Cup title in
Crawford stopped 15 shots in the first period, eight in the second and 11 in
the third to blank St. Louis on Monday. His last save of the game came on an
Alex Pietrangelo shot that was re-directed in the final minute.
"That was a big win for us but we have to keep the same mentality," said
Crawford. "Just because we came here and got the first one at home doesn't
mean it's going to be easy. We have to be prepared to work even harder and
keep the same good feelings we had in this game."
While Chicago tries to maintain momentum in Game 4, the Blues are hoping to
avoid a repeat of last year when they posted a pair of 2-1 wins over Los
Angeles to open the first round, then lost the next four games.
"We knew this was going to be a long series," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.
"We really played hard and played well and did a lot of things we needed to do
to win the game, but you have to give their goalie credit. He was good."
Miller stopped 23-of-24 shots he faced in this one, only letting Toews'
seemingly harmless shot from the top of the left circle get past him. Toews
took the shot with Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in front of him, and it
squeaked through Miller's legs. The score stayed 1-0 until Kruger knocked home
an empty-netter with 20 seconds remaining.
"After that I feel like I competed an battled," said Miller of his play after
allowing the soft goal from Toews. "There are going to be moments where things
aren't going to go your way, you just have to keep moving forward."
Of course, both teams were missing top players on Monday, as Chicago
defenseman Brent Seabrook began serving his three-game suspension for the
check that knocked David Backes out of Game 2. Backes also was out with an
upper-body injury after Seabrook drove his shoulder into the Blues captain's
face, sending him head-first into the corner boards.
That play resulted in a five-minute charging major for Seabrook and eventually
led to Vladimir Tarasenko's power-play goal, which tied Game 2 for St. Louis
with just 6.4 seconds left in regulation. After Tarasenko evened the score,
Barret Jackman scored 5:50 into overtime to give St. Louis a 2-0 series lead.
Seabrook won't be available to return in this series until Game 6, if the
matchup goes that long. Hitchcock said Tuesday that Backes could be "back in
the next two or three games" but the St. Louis forward will miss a second
straight game on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks boasted an impressive 27-7-7 record at the United Center in the
2013-14 regular season. That included a 2-0-1 mark against the Blues during
the five-game season series.
However, if St. Louis is able to pick up a win tonight on the road tonight it
will have a chance to wrap up this series on home ice. The Blues are set to
host Game 5 at Scottrade Center on Friday.
04/23 10:37:33 ET