The Blackhawks hadn’t won a game in 10 days, and they weren’t going to make it 11.
Chicago snapped a four-game winless skid on Wednesday night in Vancouver, defeating the Canucks 4-2 for its first victory since defeating Boston 3-2 in a shootout on Jan. 19.
The much-needed victory started inauspiciously for Chicago. The ‘Hawks found themselves down 1-0 just 16 seconds into the game when Chris Higgins took advantage of some lax defending to slide one past Corey Crawford. It was Higgins’ 15th goal of the year, putting him three behind team leader Ryan Kesler (18).
Vancouver doubled its lead when Tom Sestito scored his fifth of the season just 2:24 into the second period, but that goal seemed to awaken the ‘Hawks as they proceeded to score four times in under eight minutes — and kicked off the scoring spree in style.
Marian Hossa converted on the power play to make it 2-1, finishing off a great passing sequence from Kris Versteeg and Brandon Saad:
Three minutes later, Saad scored his 16th of the year to even the score at two. That was followed by goals from Jonathan Toews (his 18th) and Patrick Sharp (his 27th) — when it was all said and done, Chicago had completely wrestled away control of the game and deflated their once-fierce rivals.
Saad would go on to add an empty netter with 38 seconds left in the game, recording his second three-point game of the season.
When the final horn blew, Chicago looked down on the scoresheet and saw major contributions from its best players as Hossa, Sharp and Toews all went for two points each. The same, however, couldn’t be said of Vancouver — Daniel Sedin was again a non-factor as his goalless drought extended to 14 games, his longest since the 2007-08 season.
Alex Burrows was also held scoreless and has now gone 23 games without a single goal this season, registering just three assists.
There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.
Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)
The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.
Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:
—Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7
—Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally
—Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal
Troy Brouwer made quite an impression in his first year with the St. Louis Blues. After being acquired from the Capitals for T.J. Oshie, the 30-year-old scored 18 goals and 39 points in 82 games during the 2015-16 season. His eight goals and 13 points during the playoffs weren’t too shabby either.
Brouwer took on more of a signficant role in the postseason. His points-per-game increased, his ice time increased and he was more productive on the man-advantage (3 goals in 20 games). While the Blues were fighting for their playoff lives in Games 4 and 5 of the Western Conference Final, Brouwer contributed three goals.
Now, the Blues will have to find a way to keep him around. His playoff success likely means that he’ll be expecting a substantial raise between now and the end of the league year on July 1st. Brouwer is set to become an unrestricted free agent on that day.
Brouwer came with a cap hit of $3.66 million and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that number climb higher, especially if he hits the open market.
The Blues also need to work out deals with other pending free agents like captain David Backes and Jaden Schwartz (RFA). There isn’t a ton of money left under the cap in St. Louis, which means that GM Doug Armstrong will have to get creative this summer.
One of the things Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock liked about Brouwer was the way he seemed to fit in right away.
“He was on the team for a month,” Hitchcock explained earlier this week, per the Vancouver Sun. “I think my meetings were a little bit too long. He told me it would be best if I kept them a little briefer. So I knew he had a bite on the team right away. It didn’t take him long to get comfortable with us, which is great.”
How much will comfort count for in the off-season negotiations between club and player? We’ll find out soon enough.
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)
–The hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)
–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)
–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)
–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)
–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)
–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)
Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.
And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?
The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.
Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.
However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.
“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.
“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”