With a stunning 3-2 overtime win in St. Louis on Friday, the Blackhawks now find themselves just one win from the second round of the playoffs and heading back to home ice for Game 6. Chicago has a 13-2 home playoff record since 2013, and have gone 29-11 at the United Center in Joel Quenneville’s tenure as head coach; if he can get his 30th, the Blackhawks would move on to face the winner of the Colorado-Minnesota series in Round 2.
Playing past the 60-minute mark has been the rule rather than the exception in the Blackhawks-Blues series so far, as four of the five contests have been settled in overtime. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks the fifth Stanley Cup Playoff series that has required at least four overtime games in the first five contests; the most recent was the Blackhawks’ 2012 series against Phoenix, which needed overtime to settle the first five games. However, extra time has generally benefited Chicago: The Blackhawks now have gone to overtime in eight of their past 12 playoff games dating to last year, posting a 5-3 mark in those contests.
In Friday’s most recent OT affair, it was captain Jonathan Toews who played the hero, beating Blues goaltender Ryan Miller at 7:32 of overtime to seal the win. The goal was the captain’s eighth career game-winning goal in the postseason, tied for a franchise record (with Jeremy Roenick), and his second in overtime (April 12, 2012 at PHX). He now has recorded 70 points (22G, 48A) in 80 career playoff games, including a team-leading six points (2G, 4A) this postseason.
Game 6 will mark the return of defenseman Brent Seabrook to the lineup, having served his three-game suspension. After two games in the series, Seabrook was leading all Chicago skaters with four points (2G, 2A), and still ranks third on the team. However, anyone who watches the team knows his value goes far beyond offense, as his leadership and his chemistry with defensive partner Duncan Keith cannot be overstated, especially when a big game is on the line.
Going into Game 5, there was some talk about Marian Hossa’s production in the series, with the veteran forward having tallied only an assist in four postseason games despite leading the team in shots. Quenneville said it was only a matter of time before Hossa broke out, and he was right: the Slovakian forward found the net in Game 5, recording the first score of the game in the first period. If Hossa and Patrick Sharp can bring even more offensive production to the table, to go with the chances being generated by Toews, Patrick Kane, and some of their teammates, the Blackhawks will be a very difficult team to beat in a seven-game series.
After going down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, many around the hockey world started to doubt the chances that the Blackhawks could come back. But after a reversal of fortune, they now find themselves as close as 60 minutes away from a series victory over their bitter divisional rival. The Blackhawks have found success with their responsible transition game and their speed, and those elements will be keys to winning the potentially decisive Game 6. With a raucous, energized home crowd supporting them, expect an emotionally-charged Blackhawks team for the matchup, looking to avoid another trip to St. Louis and a winner-take-all Game 7.