Ryan Miller, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

Get your game notes: Blues at Blackhawks


Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the St. Louis Blues starting at 9 :30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:

— Chicago won its 2014 home playoff debut with its Game 3 victory; the Blackhawks held an 11-2 postseason record at United Center en route to winning the Stanley Cup last season. Chicago has now won five straight home games and eight of its last nine in the Windy City since Mar. 16 of the regular season. The Blues have now lost six of their last eight road games dating back to Mar. 19 of the regular season.

— After surrendering a third-period lead in Games 1 and 2 – losing both games in overtime – Chicago hung on to its 1-0 third-period lead in Game 3 and sealed the victory with an empty-net goal by Marcus Kruger, his fourth career postseason goal and first point of the series. With the win, the Blackhawks snapped a six-game postseason losing streak to the Blues, getting their first playoff victory over St. Louis since April 18, 2002. It was also the Blackhawks’ first home playoff win over the Blues in their last five tries dating back to a victory on Apr. 26, 1992.

— The Blackhawks have been outshot in all three games in this series: by 10 shots in Game 1 (52-42), three in Game 2 (31-28) and nine in Game 3 (34-25). On the season the Blackhawks outshot their opponents by an average of just less than six shots/game (5.9). During its playoff run last season, Chicago outshot its opponents in 15 of the 23 games and won 12 of those 15 games.

— The shutout by the Blackhawks in Game 3 was their first in 22 postseason games; their last shutout was in Game 4 of the first round last season, May 7 at Minnesota, by a score of 3-0.

— St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk has tallied one goal and three assists in the series (leads team in points) which equals his totals from 15 previous career postseason games. The Blues’ three leading scorers in the regular season – Alex Steen (62 pts.), T.J. Oshie (60 pts.) and David Backes (57 pts.) – have tallied a total of two points (1G-1A) in this series. Oshie and Backes have each missed one game due to injuries.

— Chicago has gone 0/8 on the power play in the last two games and is now 1/14 (7.1%) in the series. During the regular season the Blackhawks were the 10th-best PP team in the league (19.5%). Dating back to April 6th of the regular season, the Blackhawks are now 1/25 (4.0%) with the man advantage in their last 7 games. The Blackhawks went 8/70 (11.4%) on the power play in the playoffs last season.

— Corey Crawford made 34 saves to earn his third career playoff shutout in Game 3. The ‘Hawks netminder is 17-9 in the last two postseasons and 22-17 for his career.

— Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored his seventh postseason game-winning goal in Game 3, moving him one behind Jeremy Roenick for the Chicago franchise record. Toews now has 21 goals and 46 assists for 67 career postseason points in 78 games. Marian Hossa (113) and Patrick Kane (72) are the only active Blackhawks with more career playoff points.

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock
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ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?