Blackhawks Sing the Blues in St. Louis
At a point in time when points matter most in the standings, the Chicago Blackhawks were unable to match the work ethic and effort in a 5-1 loss to their division rivals, the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center tonight.
The Blackhawks didn't do themselves any favors by allowing the Blues to skate circles around them for sixty minutes and leaving their goaltender, Ray Emery, out to dry.
Typically, a team needs to score several goals to justify only getting twenty shots on net, but that's all the Blackhawks could muster against the defensive-minded Blues, whose offense had little trouble coming to light against Chicago's heavy legs.
T.J. Oshie kicked off the scoring for his club about five minutes into the first period when he tipped a shot from the point through traffic that Emery appeared to get a piece of, but slid calmly into Chicago's net to make it 1-0.
St. Louis then made it 2-0 when Alex Pietrangelo carried the puck behind the net and threaded a needle of a pass right to Andy McDonald in front of the Hawks' net to deflect a puck in for the Blues' second goal of the night with less than a minute to play. Clearly, this late period goal against Chicago depleted any remaining energy Chicago may have had in their attempts to take back control of the game.
Things only got worse for Chicago when Vladamir Sobotka received a sharp pass from Scott Nichol right as he split the Hawks' defense during their power play and made a quick deke around Emery to put the Blues' up 3-0.
At this point, the game seemed pretty far gone for Chicago as they headed to the locker room having finished forty minutes of ineffective hockey.
The Blackhawks regained a small amount of life at the beginning of the third period when Brent Seabrook fired a shot from the point and Andrew Brunette scored his tenth of the season as he tipped his shot past Blues' goalie, Jaroslav Halak, to make it 3-1.
But whatever hope the Blackhawks gained from Brunette's goal, was quickly doused as St. Louis took advantage of Chicago's failure to clear the puck on a line change and entered the Hawks' zone and Alex Pietrangelo, once again, fed a pass to Andy McDonald who put the Blue's up 4-1 with less than five minutes to play.
It appeared as though the Blackhawks threw the towel in early at that point, as their clearing efforts out of their defensive zone got worse and worse, directly leading once again to a St. Louis goal, as Jason Arnott took a cross-ice pass from Chris Stewart and fired the puck into an open net to make it a 5-1 game as Ray Emery scrambled back to his net after the failed clearing attempt.
The Chicago Blackhawks desperately need to continue gaining points in the standings, especially against teams in their division. It's safe to say that they won't catch the Blues in the race for the division title, but if they want to secure a playoff spot, these late season losses won't help them out at all.
Once again, the Blackhawks failed to maintain a solid defensive game and allowed five goals to a team in the bottom third of the NHL in goal scoring. Give credit to the Blues for their effort and puck possession in tonight's game, but the Blackhawks made it relatively easy for them by not matching their physical play or converting on even one of five power play opportunities.
It will be all the more difficult for Chicago to be successful without the services of Captain Jonathan Toews indefinitely, so an all around team effort is even more significant at this point in the season.
Chicago will meet the next NHL's other top team in the New York Rangers on Friday, March 9th when they visit the United Center.