The Chicago Blackhawks will be facing elimination on Thursday night when they take on the St. Louis Blues, and even though things are looking rough for the defending Stanley Cup champions, there are still reasons for hope for Blackhawks fans.
Of course, there is the recent history of the team. They came back from deficits in both the Western Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final last season, and although both of those deficits were 2-1 holes (and a 3-2 deficit to the Anaheim Ducks), they still show the resiliency of this particular team.
In fact, the Blackhawks have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a series in recent years. That came in the second round of the 2013 postseason, when the Hawks trailed the Detroit Red Wings by a 3-1 margin after four games. Game 4 was an especially heinous one for the Blackhawks, as Jonathan Toews racked up penalty minutes and the team looked all but defeated against the Red Wings in what would be their final series as Western Conference foes.
We know how that series ended up turning out, as the Blackhawks made the necessary adjustments and came back to win in thrilling fashion. Their Game 7 win in that series was especially noteworthy, as they had a late regulation goal by Niklas Hjalmarsson waved off and had to dig deep to win in the overtime frame as Brent Seabrook sent them to the conference final.
The Blackhawks also came close to coming back from a 3-1 deficit in 2014 when they took on the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final. In that season, the Hawks looked to be down and out, but they won Games 5 and 6 and went to an overtime period in Game 7 before losing on a shot that bounced off of Nick Leddy and got past Corey Crawford.
Needless to say, history has shown that the Blackhawks are capable of coming back and winning a series despite tough obstacles, but as fans undoubtedly know, it will take more than a look back at the history books to overcome this series deficit.
Guys like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane simply have to get on the scoresheet, and Joel Quenneville has united the two stars in what beat writers call his “nuclear option” line. Richard Panik will skate on the top line with the duo, with Teuvo Teravainen replacing Kane on the second line alongside Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov.
Ideally, the move will kill two birds with one stone, getting Toews going while also getting Teravainen a chance to play with some of the more talented offensive players on the team’s roster.
That adjustment is key, but the Blackhawks also have to slow down Vladimir Tarasenko and Brian Elliott as well. Tarasenko routinely has been getting open looks on the power play for the Blues, and he’s absolutely killed the Hawks throughout the series. Meanwhile, Elliott is making every save imaginable at the other end, and the Blackhawks have got to figure out a way to get more traffic in front of the net and take advantage when he gives up rebound chances.
Those two strategic adjustments will be absolutely key for the Blackhawks if they’re going to win Game 5 and begin to climb back into this series. The Hawks have shown that they are capable of making adjustments late in series, and Quenneville’s incredible record in Games 5-7 with the Blackhawks is reflective of that ability.
This team is in a really tough spot, but they still have the ability to come back, and the historical precedent to draw from, and that’s what fans should be focused on before the puck drops in Game 5.