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Blues hope to keep season alive in Chicago

by Brian Hedger


(Chicago leads best-of-7 series 3-2)


Big story: The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks have come back from a 2-0 deficit in this Western Conference First Round series and have a chance to eliminate the St. Louis Blues in Game 6.

If any team knows what it takes to do that, it's the Blackhawks. They came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the 2013 Western Conference Semifinals, then overcame a 2-1 margin to beat the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final to win their second title in four seasons.

Team Scope:

Blues: St. Louis is trying to forget about its collapse against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 Western Conference Quarterfinals, but the similarities between this series and that one are hard to ignore.

2013 vs LA 2014 vs CHI
GM 1 Steen GWG in OT Steen GWG in OT
GM 2 Jackman GWG Jackman GWG
GM 3 Shutout Loss Shutout Loss
GM 4 Lose 4-3 Lose 4-3
GM 5 Lose 3-2 in OT Lose 3-2 in OT

Last year, the Blues won the first two games against the Kings before losing four straight. They find themselves on the verge of repeating that scenario for a second straight postseason. But the similarities don't end there. In each series, Alexander Steen scored the winner in Game 1 and Barret Jackman scored the winner in Game 2. St. Louis also lost 4-3 in Game 4 and fell 3-2 in overtime in Game 5 in each series.

St. Louis is determined to avoid the same fate.

"We have a chance to write our own legacy," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Everybody is probably writing, 'Here they go again. They're challenging the top teams, but can they get through the top teams?' Everybody is going to write that stuff. But we have a chance to write the message that you guys have to print, so it's in our control."

The Blues were glad to get captain David Backes back from an upper-body injury in Game 5, but he didn't play up to his usual standards. Backes played 21:35 and finished with eight hits, but won 35 percent of his faceoffs and was on the ice for two of Chicago's three goals, including Jonathan Toews' breakaway winner in overtime.

Blackhawks: After three strong games by defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, Chicago gets Brent Seabrook back on the top defense pairing after a three-game suspension for an illegal hit on Backes in Game 2.

Seabrook provides a hard shot from the point, adds some physical presence defensively, and has a knack for creating instant offense with pinpoint stretch passes from the defensive zone to create odd-man rushes for Blackhawks forwards.

"Against a team like [the Blues], they're coming hard and they like to [hit] your body," Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "It's so much easier when you have just one pass and you're out and you can focus on going on offense. That's one of [Seabrook's] strengths. He's always good at finding those first passes. Off the ice too, he's a huge part of this team. He's always pushing everybody, one of those core players that has a lot to say in our locker room."

Who's hot: St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka has three assists, 17 hits and has won 58.3 percent of the faceoffs he's taken. ... Toews (two goals and four assists) has a point in three straight games and has scored the game-winning goal in two of Chicago's three victories.

Injury report: Blues forward Brendan Morrow (foot) is out for the remainder of the series. ... The Blackhawks report no injuries.

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