Of all the axioms and hackneyed "wisdom" that is espoused during the Stanley Cup playoffs, there is one thing that actually holds a lot of truth and should be taken seriously: if another team gives you an opportunity to win, you have to seize it.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, Thursday night’s loss to the St. Louis Blues has to be chalked up as a missed opportunity. The Hawks held the lead from the end of the first period, when Patrick Kane scored on a breakaway following a successful penalty kill, all the way to the end of the third, when Jaden Schwartz tied things up with less than two minutes left to send the game into overtime.
Even during that overtime the Hawks had opportunities to seal the deal. They got two different power plays off of careless penalties by the Blues, but despite a few good chances, neither of them could come to fruition, and ultimately the Blues made them pay as Alexander Steen scored just 27 seconds into the third overtime period to give the Blues the victory.
Before the overtime periods, the Blackhawks had plenty of chances to extend their lead and to really put the Blues away. The visitors did a nice job of controlling the game in the early stages of the second period, holding the Blues to only one shot on goal through the first 13 minutes of the frame, but despite that dominance, they couldn’t quite score against Ryan Miller. To his credit, the Blues goaltender did have a nice rebound period after struggling at times in the first, but even if a goalie is settled in after a rough start, a team has to simply keep coming at him.
The Blackhawks did do that in the second period and in the early part of the third, getting two power plays on a David Backes high stick and a Ryan Reaves tripping minor, but they weren’t able to convert either chance. Then, as so often happens to teams when the stakes are high and a win is in sight, the Hawks tightened up in the closing minutes of the third period. The Blues completely took over the tempo of the game, firing shot after shot at Corey Crawford, and the Hawks seemed content to give St. Louis the offensive blue line at every juncture. Finally, the pressure proved to be too much as Schwartz tied things up late, and after a long stretch of playing on their heels, the Hawks had to face down what turned out to be a lengthy overtime.
It is a fact of life in the playoffs that teams will run into hot goaltenders, and it’s also true that a team can dominate time of possession and the shots on goal category and still not win games. That being said, those factors weren’t the case for the Blackhawks on Thursday night, and if they’re being honest with themselves, they let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers in losing Game 1 of the series. They are by no means finished (anyone suggesting that a team that lost a triple overtime first game of a series is finished should have their punditry card revoked), so they need to bounce back in Game 2 and take advantage of some of the opportunities that they let go by the wayside in the first matchup between the two squads.