By Adam Hess
The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves facing a 2-1 deficit after the first three games of their first-round playoff matchup with the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done a lot of things well in these first three games, but it’s their shortcomings that have truly stuck out early in these playoffs.
The most notable shortcoming thus far has been the Blackhawks lack of offensive contribution from the blue line. Duncan Keith’s return to the lineup in Game 2 after missing Game 1 due to suspension was an extremely welcome one, and one that was felt immediately. Keith scored Chicago’s first goal of Game 2, which was also their first goal of the series.
Aside from Keith, however, none of the Blackhawks defensemen have been able to make any significant positive impact on this series thus far. Brent Seabrook scored a power-play goal in Game 3, but then proceeded to undo any positivity that might have added with his abysmal play with the puck in his own zone as that game wound down.
Worse than Seabrook was Viktor Svedberg, who somehow managed to log more penalty minutes (PIM) than minutes on the ice in Game 3, as well as more PIM than he logged in 43 games this season. His Game 3 performance was by far the worst we’ve seen from any player in this series for either team.
However, he does not deserve all of the blame for his poor performance in Game 3, because in all reality he probably should not have been in the lineup to begin with. Joel Quenneville’s lineup decisions in this series have been questionable, to say the least.
Playing Brandon Mashinter instead of one of Richard Panik or Dale Weise in Game 1 of the series was indefensible. Mashinter’s presence in the lineup was likely due to the fact that the Blues play a much more physical style than the Blackhawks. However, placing a physical player like Mashinter in the lineup in hopes of deterring that is simply unwise, and truthfully does not make much sense.
Within the Blackhawks fast-paced style of play, Mashinter’s presence is actually a major detriment to the lineup. He completely derailed the third line in Game 1, and the argument could be made that Teuvo Teravainen’s struggles in this series trace back to having to drag Mashinter around for Game 1.
Still, the Blackhawks are not out of this series. Over the past few seasons, they have typically done their struggling in the first three games of a playoff series and closed out those sets in Games 4-7.
If the Blackhawks can win Tuesday night’s Game 4, they should have no problem winning this series in six as I predicted last week. However, if the Blues grab a 3-1 lead in this series, this series could very well be bound for a Game 7.