CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 27: (L-R) Duncan Keith #2, Brandon Saad #20, Andrew Shaw #65, Marcus Kruger #16 and Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate a third period goal by Shaw against the St. Louis Blues in Game Six of the First Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the United Center on April 27, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 5-1 to win the series four games to two. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Chicago Blackhawks certainly turned some heads with their performance in the last four games of their series against the St. Louis Blues, winning all four contests and securing a berth in the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
We may be three days removed from that series, but with the Hawks awaiting the winner of the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche in the next round, it seems appropriate to take a quick look back and determine which Blackhawk was the team’s MVP of their first round series triumph.
Here are our nominees for the spot:
Crawford struggled a bit in the first two games in St. Louis, surrendering eight goals and giving up two overtime winners. He ended up criticizing his own play after those games, saying that he “needed to be better,” and he certainly did a great job of shoring up his play. He picked up a shutout in Game 3 of the series, held on for wins in Games 4 and 5, and most importantly of all, kept the Hawks in Game 6 as they struggled through one of their worst periods of hockey in recent memory.
Through it all, Crawford has once again been the subject of media and fan scrutiny, and with a 1.98 GAA and a .935 save percentage, he seems to have passed the first test with flying colors.
Tied for the team lead in points with seven so far in six playoff games, Keith has been under more pressure than just about any other Blackhawk so far in the postseason. Without his partner Brent Seabrook through three of the games against the Blues, Keith still managed to find some great chemistry with Sheldon Brookbank, playing defensively responsible hockey while maintaining his offensive flair.
That flair was on full display in Game 6 as he was reunited with Seabrook. Keith picked up four points in that game, including a spectacular goal that he scored on a backhanded shot out of midair on the rush as he sealed the victory for the Hawks.
For all of the praise that Keith got for his spectacular play in Game 6 of the series, Toews really came on strong in the final four games against the Blues, scoring the game-winning goal in three of the games and really stepping up his defensive game in the process. His early goal set the tone for the Hawks in their Game 3 win, and his breakaway goal in the overtime of Game 5 put the Hawks ahead in the series and drove a huge nail into the Blues’ coffin.
His Game 6 goal was perhaps the biggest moment of the series. After Keith made a tremendous play to keep the puck in the zone, he pushed a pass across the zone to Toews in the slot. The Hawks’ captain collected the puck, patiently skated back across the ice between the dots, and rifled home a wrist shot past Ryan Miller that made it a 2-1 game just over a minute into the third period.
And the Winner Is…
It’s always a tough decision picking an MVP after just six games, but for the Blackhawks, one player has really stood out so far in the postseason, and that is Toews. His game-winning goals may have generated the headlines, but it’s his overall play that has made the biggest difference for the team, and he is really pushing hard to help the Hawks win their third championship in five seasons.