James O'Brien

Blackhawks dig deep, force Game 7 against Blues

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The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Chicago Blackhawks seemed like they were in peril in trailing 3-1 during Game 6, much like they seemed to be when they fell behind 3-1 in their series against the St. Louis Blues.

In both situations, the Blackhawks answered the call. They flipped the script in the second period and proved to be too much for the Blues in a 6-3 win for Chicago. There have been many twists and turns that could have buried the Blackhawks – including a multiple overtime marathon won by Patrick Kane – yet the defending champions just would not stay down.

With that, this series concludes with a decisive Game 7 in St. Louis, and the pressure lands squarely on the Blues’ shoulders.

These are two strong teams. The Blues fought through questionable calls to get some gutty wins in this series and refused to allow injuries to derail their season.

Plenty of evidence argues that their heart shouldn’t be questioned, yet the same jokes are already trickling in.

If the Blues fail in Game 7, many will ignore positive strides and stick with familiar narratives, whether that is fair or not.

It would be a mistake to assume that St. Louis will roll over, however, as they still have a chance to slay this dragon that is the Blackhawks’ edge and their reputation for falling short in the postseason.

Most importantly: more fun (mixed with anxiety if you have a horse in the race).

Blackhawks turn Game 6 on its head with blazing second period

Fans arrive at United Center before Game 6 of an NHL hockey first-round Stanley Cup playoff series between the Chicago Blackhawks and the St. Louis Blues Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP
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These are the types of periods that can change a series. These are the moments that remind you that the Chicago Blackhawks are defending Stanley Cup champions for a reason.

Time will tell if the second period bring something the St. Louis Blues likely (if secretly) feared: a Game 7 against the Blackhawks.

Judging from this contest, the third period could feel like a game onto itself, much like the previous two have. That’s especially true with Corey Crawford shaken up by a hard shot late in the middle frame.

The Blues shook off a 1-0 early Blackhawks lead to run up a 3-1 score in the first period, prompting many to wonder if Chicago could dig deep again.

The answer: yes they could, and they did in a big way.

Chicago took advantage of great play from the likes of Andrew Ladd to swing that 3-1 margin to a 4-3 lead heading into the third period, including killing a penalty in the dying minutes.

Interestingly, the Blackhawks have dominated second periods during this series while third periods have frequently gone the Blues’ way.

In other words … definitely stay tuned.

Ducks take 3-2 series lead after edging Predators in Game 5

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The Nashville Predators put a serious scare into the Anaheim Ducks by winning the first two games of this series. Three games later, the Ducks have the Predators on the brink of elimination.

Anaheim won Game 5 against the Predators by a score of 5-2, going up 3-2 in this series, the first time they’ve been ahead in the first round.

The score is misleading most obviously because the Ducks tacked on an empty-net goal.

(And that’s assuming you’re not really hammering the argument that the Ducks’ 2-1 goal should not have counted.)

Two big areas of reversal

Most clearly, the Ducks have seen a nice boost in net after replacing John Gibson with Frederik Andersen. The big goalie has only allowed three goals in as many games, all wins.

Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, looks a little more like the goalie who struggled early this season in these defeats. This slippage comes after those two wins where he resembled the Rinne who prompted some optimism toward the end of the regular season.

The other significant flip-flop comes in officiating. Bruce Boudreau called out his Ducks players for taking bad penalties when Anaheim went down 2-0. In the case of Game 5, the disciplinary lapses largely came from Nashville.

The Ducks went 1-for-7 on the man advantage while Nashville was unable to score on three power-play chances. That might not be a huge scoreboard edge of 1-0, yet the Predators were forced to play on the penalty kill for substantial stretches. Corey Perry coaxed consecutive penalties from James Neal, just to name a couple instances of mental errors by Nashville.*

(It’s also fitting that Sami Vatanen‘s key goal came right after he exited the penalty box on a failed Nashville power play.)

Now the Predators find themselves on the brink of elimination after seeing a 2-0 series lead unravel into a 3-2 deficit. A place termed “Smashville” doesn’t scream control, but the Preds likely need to get it together if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

* – Or calls made against the Predators … whatever way you look at it, Nashville ended up in the box a lot more often than Anaheim on Saturday.

Predators fans wonder if a Ducks goal should have counted

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Ryan Garbutt‘s 2-1 goal for the Anaheim Ducks against Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators looked a little weird.

At first, it seemed that way simply because it came from such a severe angle, requiring some luck for the Ducks.

Some Predators fans wonder if the goal should have counted at all.

Seeing a replay from this GIF makes it look a bit odd:

Granted, that might just be the frustration from Preds fans talking, as plenty of people seem convinced that it was fine.

You can look it over in the video above this post’s headline.

The bottom line is that the goal counted; the Ducks also added a goal right after the Predators’ power play expired to make it 3-1 in Game 5.

WATCH LIVE: St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 6

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk (57) slips to the ice as he competes for the puck against St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) during the first period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series, Thursday, April 21, 2016, in St. Louis. (Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)
AP
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Saturday already saw one team’s postseason end as the Penguins dispatched the Rangers. The Blues can do the same if they leap over the considerable hurdle of eliminating the Blackhawks.

Chicago gutted out a double-overtime win against St. Louis in Game 5, so the series shifts to Game 6 at the United Center on Saturday night.

This series has produced some hockey at a near-classic level at times; one would expect the defending champions to bring plenty of fight in Game 6.

You can watch the action on NBC and also stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

There’s also plenty of time to watch the Nashville Predators and the Anaheim Ducks grapple for a 3-2 series lead in Game 5. That contest is primed to enter the third period on NBCSN.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE