In what may have been a case of letting a golden opportunity slip through their fingers, the Chicago Blackhawks dropped a 4-3 decision in triple overtime to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series.
The two teams won't have much time to focus on the game, as they will battle again on Saturday afternoon in Game 2, but in the meantime, we have our Three Stars from the game here.
Third Star: Patrick Kane
In his first game back since being injured against the Blues in mid-March, Kane started out slowly but gained steam as the contest wore on. He ended up playing 28:31 of ice time, including nearly six minutes of power play time, and he picked up a goal and six shots on goal during the contest.
Kane's goal in the first period came right after the Blackhawks had finished off a penalty kill, and it showed both the excellent defensive discipline of his teammates and Kane's own nose for the net. With Brent Seabrook chasing down the puck in the defensive zone, Kane curled back near the red line and cheated up ice. Seabrook made a nice play to muscle Alex Steen off the puck, and he moved a pass to Jonathan Toews.
The Hawks' captain then found Kane with a long stretch pass across all three lines, and Kane caught it in stride. On a breakaway against Miller, Kane didn't try to do anything too fancy as he fired a quick wrist shot before Miller could get set, and in the blink of an eye he gave his team a 3-2 lead.
The health of Kane's knee is going to be one of the dominant storylines in this series, but in the first game at least, it looked as though everything was A-OK.
Second Star: Corey Crawford
It was hard not to give Crawford First Star honors even though he gave up four goals in the game, including the game-winner to Steen just 27 seconds into the third overtime. At the end of the day though, 48 saves against a Blues offense that was really buzzing in the third period and overtime sessions was an impressive performance despite the outcome, and Crawford deserves credit for the way he played.
No moment better symbolized Crawford's day than the second period save that he made on Vladimir Tarasenko. On the play, Niklas Hjalmarsson tried to pass back along the boards to a supporting forward, but he didn't get enough on the pass. Eventually, the puck found its way to the front of the net, where Andrew Shaw blocked the initial shot. Crawford had kicked across the crease to try to cover the post, so when the puck found Tarasenko waiting on the other side, the goaltender wasn't in very good position.
Fortunately for the Hawks, Crawford noticed Tarasenko immediately, and he made a very athletic move to get back across the crease. By the time the young star had snapped off a shot, the goaltender was able to stop it with his arm and cover it up, preserving the Hawks lead and denying Tarasenko a goal that would have shifted momentum firmly onto the side of the home team.
Crawford is known more for his ability to square up shooters and play fundamentally sound hockey than for his ability to improvise, but he definitely showed a flair for the dramatic at times in this game. If he can continue to make those kinds of saves, then it's going to be hard for the Blues to figure out ways to beat him more often than not.
First Star: Brent Seabrook
At times during the regular season, Seabrook has been pilloried for making bad defensive decisions and for taking advantage of his pairing with Duncan Keith when making those poor choices. Whether or not that criticism is fair or not can be argued, but on Thursday, there was no disputing that his performance put the Hawks in a position where they could have won the game.
Seabrook's best moments came in the first period with his team on the power play. On one play Seabrook collected the puck along the boards, and protected it for long enough from St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz to push it back to the point, where Kris Versteeg cycled it to Nick Leddy for a quick shot opportunity.
That shot ended up going wide of the net, and Seabrook made a nice play to keep Kevin Shattenkirk from gaining possession of the puck to clear it from the zone. That play enabled the possession to continue, and ultimately it paid some serious dividends. After a nice play by Kris Versteeg to skate behind the net to get the Blues' defense moving, Seabrook pinched in from the point and got open in the face-off circle. He received the pass in stride and snapped a shot past Miller to make it a 2-1 lead for the Hawks.
Seabrook may not get the offensive acclaim that Keith does, but he has certainly shown at times this season that he can make things happen when he has the puck on his stick. In Game 1 of this series, he showed some serious hustle and grit too, and when those talents are combined, they make for a matchup nightmare for opponents.