Blackhawks vs. Blues Game 7 Preview: 7 Key Storylines To Win Or Go Home Game [POLL, VIDEO]
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Patrick Kane (88) and the Blackhawks face Brian Elliott and the Blues in Game 7 on Monday. (Photo : Getty Images)
The puck is set to drop on the first Game 7 of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday in St. Louis.
The Blues and Blackhawks have had a knockdown, drag out affair and now the series has gone to the brink. St. Louis is looking to fight off its playoff demons, while the defending Stanley Cup champions hope to keep up their penchant for winning by any means necessary this time of year.
With the lights set to come up on Game 7 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, here are seven storylines heading into the game as the winner goes on to meet the Stars.
1) Singing The Blues
St. Louis is hoping to avoid what would be a huge disappointment by blowing yet another postseason lead. The Blues haven’t made it out of the first round since 2012, and blew two separate 2-0 series leads in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs en route to elimination — one of which was against the Blackhawks in 2014. The Blues have had 1-0, 2-1, 3-1 and 3-2 series leads in this first-round set, but have allowed the Blackhawks to force a Game 7.
2) Dynasty Danger
There’s no doubting that this Blackhawks team will be remembered as a modern day dynasty due to their three Stanley Cups in the last six seasons, but they’re in danger of a first-round exit if they can’t muster up any more Game 7 magic. Chicago is 3-2 under Joel Quenneville in Game 7s and hasn’t had a first-round exit since the 2012 campaign. Chicago followed the 2012 loss up by winning Game 7s in 2013 and 2015 en route to two Stanley Cups.
3) Blue In The Face
It appeared as though Vladimir Tarasenko, who has a series-high four goals and is averaging a point per game, was angry at Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock over playing time during a power play in the second period of St. Louis’ Game 6 loss. Hitchcock, however, tried to downplay any rift to the media.
“I don’t think it’s ice-time related,” Hitchcock told NHL.com. “I think he felt like he could have helped on that power play. We didn’t get a change on the power play because we had the thing in the [offensive zone]all the time, so … that’s what happens when you’ve got a guy like that [who]wants to make a difference. I love it, I love it in him.”
4) Stagnant Superstars
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are the heart of the Blackhawks, and though their presence has been felt in other aspects on the ice throughout this series, they only have one goal between them heading into Game 7. That tally, however, is a huge one as Kane lit the lamp in double overtime to keep the Blackhawks’ season alive in St. Louis during Game 5. Kane does have six assists to tie rookie Artemi Panarin (two goals, five assists) for a team-high seven points, while Toews has five helpers.
Sticking with the positive, the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo (one goal, five assists), Jaden Schwartz (three tallies, three helpers) and Tarasenko (four goals, two assists) are each averaging a point per game.
5) Close Quarters
A blowout appears unlikely in Game 7. All but one game in this series has been decided by a goal, the exception being the Blackhawks’ 6-3 victory in Game 6 with their backs against the wall on home ice. Two of the games have gone past regulation as David Backes’ played hero in Game 1 with an innocent pass attempt turning into a game-winning goal in overtime and Kane scored in double overtime in Game 5 – the fifth OT goal of his career – to keep Chicago alive.
6) Crease Battle
The goalie battle has been intense throughout the first six games and the men in the blue paint will go a long way in helping decide which team moves on to face the Stars. Two-time Stanley Cup champion Corey Crawford, 31, has a 2.46 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in this series. Brian Elliott, 31, who has managed to prove skeptics wrong by having a strong series, owns an identical 2.46 GAA and a .928 save percentage in this series.
7) 7th Heaven
The Blackhawks will be playing in their 14th Game 7 and enter the winner-take-all contest with a 7-6 record through their first 13. The Blues have played 14 in their history, and come into the do-or-die game with a 6-8 mark. St. Louis’ last Game 7 was a 2003 loss to the Canucks, while the Blackhawks toppled the Ducks, 5-3, last May and have played four such games since the last time the Blues played a Game 7.
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