BLUES at BLACKHAWKS
Western Conference First Round
Best-of-7 series is tied 1-1
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC, SN, TVA Sports
This series hit a Stanley Cup Playoff pace and intensity right from the puck drop for Game 1, and both sides feel it could keep getting higher with each game.
With Game 3 at United Center on Sunday, it's been a near stalemate in every aspect and there's no sign of that changing anytime soon.
"Going into this series, we knew we had our hands full," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday in Chicago. "Coming out of these two games, we know we have our hands full. It's been an amazing pace, tight as can be, close as can be, [and] not a lot of room would be expected in that area. I don't foresee much change. Whether it comes down to a big save, a 1-on-1 battle, big power play, big kill ... it's going to be that tight."
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock agreed, but left room for the pace and intensity to grow.
"I think Joel put it best," Hitchcock said. "It's been amazing hockey the first two games. It's probably going to stay at the same temperature or probably going to go up even. We've got to be ready for it. It's us being able to handle the emotional ups and downs."
Each team had its share of those in Game 2 after three video reviews late in the third period. First, the Blues had a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko overturned because of an offside penalty, which would have given them a 2-1 lead. Then a goal scored by Chicago's Andrew Shaw was upheld after two reviews, including a coach's challenge for goaltender interference.
"[Game 2] was about as dramatic as you could get and we're going to have to come back on a very short rest here," Hitchcock said. "So, this is short for both teams to be able to handle it and amp it up again for [Game 3], because I don't see either team leaving anywhere right now."
Blues team scope: St. Louis won two of three games at United Center this season and three of their past five. Hitchcock said it doesn't mean much in the postseason. "No, because both teams have dialed it up significantly since Game 68 and 81 that we played, these are completely different games," he said. "These are at a whole other level. Both teams recognize that." St. Louis held an optional skate Saturday with a handful of players participating. The Blues addressed the emotional swings from Game 2 during a meeting and feel ready to move forward. "It's not a young team here," center Paul Stastny said. "We have experienced guys, and that's what happens in a playoff series. There's highs and lows. If you worry too much about it, those are the teams that will be unsuccessful and kind of use that as an excuse. It's early in the series. It's frustrating, yeah, but I think once we woke up this morning, we already forgot about it and we're focused on [Game 3]." Goalie Brian Elliott is expected to start his third straight game.
Blackhawks team scope: Chicago, which didn't practice Saturday, is mentally preparing for a strong pushback from St. Louis. The Blackhawks are looking to continue their success coming out of Game 2. "In the playoffs, it's lots about momentum," forward Marian Hossa said. "We got a break. Obviously the new rules finally work out for us. [We have] a great challenge. The game basically changed. You know, we scored right afterwards. It's just huge momentum for us. Right now we just want to keep it ... we just want to keep the momentum." Goalie Corey Crawford is expected to start, which will be his third straight since returning from an upper-body injury that sidelined him almost a month. Crawford earned his 46th NHL playoff win in Game 2, passing Tony Esposito for the most in Blackhawks history. "He's been great in the first two games," Quenneville said. "In [the past two] games he did a great job being ready and doing what we had to do. He looked sharp, quick and handled the puck well. Exactly what you want."