Tonight is Game 6 in the Stanley Cup playoffs series between St. Louis and Chicago. This series has delivered as promised in terms of excitement and outstanding hockey and this evening might not be enough.
Holding a 3-1 lead and coming home, this was supposed to be where the Blues were finally different and put the defending champs away. It did not happen, as much like cutting the head off a snake but not clearly separating the two parts, you have to literally defeat the Blackhawks, because they just do not quit. You don’t win three Cups in six years without dealing with trying circumstances. Patrick Kane’s first goal of the series was his fifth in OT (tied for third all-time) and the series moves back to Chicago.
At Heritage, the NHL odds have Chicago as -140 money line favorites for this battle which has been moved to prime time for 8:05 EDT start on NBC. With the home team 1-4 in the series and that victory came in the opener in OT off the skate of the non-winners into the goal, what else could possibly happen, let explore.
In last article, mentioned the clinching game is often the hardest in a playoff series and the Blues got a firsthand taste of it at home Thursday. Though disappointed with the outcome, St. Louis players were hardly forlorn. “I thought we played one of our better games,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who was key contributor, assisting on all three St. Louis goals.
The Blues understand the task and how hard it will be, yet also realize they have four wins at the United Center this season, including two in the past week.
St. Louis made two critical miscues in prior contest, giving up and shorthanded goal which seemed to throw them and later in the second period a score with one tick left on the clock. To their credit they stormed back yet again and tied the game at 3-3 and had the chances in the extra sessions.
Make a few adjustments down the middle of the ice, find a way to generate 30-plus shots in regulation again and the Blues polish this series off.
The Blackhawks might not have the same depth of talent as some of the recent squads that have worn the white or red sweaters, but do not think for moment the foundation of this team is not built on skill, pride and the knowledge of what it takes.
At this juncture, it is not a coincidence Chicago is 12-3 since 2010 in elimination games. With Kane and Marian Hossa now in the scoring column, one cannot help but wonder if the magic is returning.
A subtle, yet important variation coach Joel Quenneville made was more shots out near the point and when the offense was set up, pinching a player or two who could redirect a puck, which happened to goalie Brian Elliott, who for the first time in series was little shaken in second period.
Once again the Hawks were left to hang on after holding two goal lead in the third period and only because Corey Crawford stopped 43 of 46 shots is Chicago even having this game.
What to Expect and Winner
I must admit, I am no authority for NHL picks on this series. After being correct on first two, I have dropped three in a row. As a hockey handicapper, I expected this to be a seven-game series, though the path was not exactly as I would have forecasted.
When considering trends and the role they could play, St. Louis is 16-3 after a one goal home setback and one of those victories happened this week. Yet I cannot get away from how Chicago plays in these situations and is clutch time after time and unless the Blues would build a three-goal lead, only then would I consider the Hawks finished. With the champs 14-2 in the sixth game of a playoff series, expect them to close this one out.
Free Pick – Chicago wins