Skip to Main Content

Five keys for Blackhawks vs. Blues Game 2

St. Louis needs to be more patient offensively; Chicago must do more with power-play chances

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks play Game 2 of their Western Conference First Round Series at Scottrade Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2, FS-MW, CSN-CH).

Here are five keys for Game 2:

1. Withstand the heat: The Blackhawks are going to turn it on. It's what they do in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and what they certainly will do after going down 1-0 in the series. 

"The intensity is going to keep picking up here game by game," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "Any time you lose a game obviously you're going to try and change something. They might be trying different things. We've got to make sure we're aware early on that they might have different tendencies."

And that's something that the Blues will have to take into account.

"I think the temperature's going to go up. We just have to know what the temperature's going to be like and be ready for it," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "You can tell in players' comments, [Blackhawks coach] Joel [Quenneville's] comments, our feelings. It was a hard-fought game, but the execution is going to go up and I think both teams can execute at a higher level. You'll see more and more of that tonight and as the series goes on."

Video: CHI@STL, Gm1: Elliott collects 35 saves in shutout

2. Shot selection: The Blues were held to 18 shots on goal in Game 1. They had 22 shots blocked and 20 missed shots. They won the game but know they need to put more pressure on Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford.  

And that doesn't necessarily come down to taking more shots, Hitchcock said. It comes down to taking the right shots.

"I know this might sound funny, but we were guilty of trying to shoot too much," he said. "That's what put us in a bad spot. We didn't show the patience necessary to play this team. We tried to shoot the puck too much, had numerous shots blocked and ended up with both teams collectively had close to the same scoring chances; almost identical. Their shot totals were higher.

"We were guilty of not having enough shots because we tried to shoot too much. They got in lanes, so we have to find a little bit different way to play them offensively."

3. Powering up: Chicago was second in the League on the power play during the regular season at 22.6 percent. St. Louis was third in the NHL on the penalty kill at 85.1 percent. 

The Blues won the special teams battle in Game 1, killing five power plays, including three consecutive (and overlapping) man-advantages in the first period.

It will be important for the Blackhawks to take advantage of their extra-man chances, and seems likely given how good the Blackhawks were in the regular season, plus the addition of defenseman Duncan Keith, who was fourth on the Blackhawks with 18 power-play points. Keith returns from a six-game suspension.

"We had a great opportunity on the power play," Quenneville said. "One in overtime; 5-on-3. Those are situations you'd like to cash in. And we feel once we get our power play going it helps our 5-on-5 game offensively."

4. Transition game: The Blues got a little lucky in Game 1, especially in the second period, when a 2-on-1 with Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews turned into a breakaway by Toews, and he didn't score. That's not exactly something the Blues can count on. So they need to continue to be strong in countering the Blackhawks' transition game, which can be deadly if left unchecked.

"You have to respect their transition game the most," Hitchcock said. "It got away on us twice. You're standing on the bench, you're watching Jonathan Toews go 2-on-1 on a breakaway. Most night's that's like money. Those are the things you have to avoid. You've got to really respect. It's their quick strike. You think you're on offense, you think you're on the attack. Next thing you know they're on an odd-man rush.

"We have to find a way to make sure they don't get the easy offense. We were fortunate in those two occasions that [goalie Brian Elliott] made big saves, because that's the wrong guy to have the puck on his stick at that time."

Video: CHI@STL, Gm1: Elliott stones Blackhawks early in OT

5. Back in business: After six games out, it's time for Keith to return to the lineup. And Keith isn't exactly getting it easy, entering with the Blackhawks down 1-0 in the best-of-7 series.

"I think there's an education there as well," Quenneville said. "Come into the game excited about playing. Whether they target him or not, I think he knows discipline's always going to be a key and he'll probably be watched tighter. But just play your game."

The Blackhawks are eager to see that. They know what he can do for them. 

"You're putting one of the best players in the world back in your lineup," forward Andrew Ladd said. "Just his quickness, his speed, his hockey sense. There's so many things that he does really well. Offensively he'll be able to jump up and help us out off the rush too. There's so many things, you can't really touch on all of them right now."

View More