Blackhawks win 5-1, knock out big bad Blues - Dallas News |

Blackhawks win 5-1, knock out big bad Blues

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

There is no substitute for experience, and when it comes to winning know-how, the Blackhawks have a lot. On Sunday afternoon the team that knew how to put an opponent away came through. In a very impressive effort the Hawks defeated the Blues 5-1.

The Blues out hit the Blackhawks 248 to 143 in the series but the club that couldn’t keep up in Game 6 was St. Louis. Since 2009, in game clinching situations the Hawks are 11-2 - they know how to finish business. The Blues had a lot of shots (36) but when the clubs were at even strength the Blackhawks were much the best.

The Hawks are an interesting bunch of highly competitive players who are always confident. Their leader Jonathan Toews is one of exceptional skill but his best talent is he knows how to win. If a team needs a big goal in a very important contest, the player many general managers would want on the ice is Toews. There are more talented goal scorers but none of them can match Toews on the biggest stage.

In Game 6, Toews found a way to hold the puck a bit longer and make one more move to freeze Ryan Miller. As usually happens the Hawks captain had the game on his stick and succeeded. After Toews scored a power play goal at the 44 second mark of the third period, his teammates knew what to do.

Once the Hawks got the lead, it looked like a game between freshmen and seniors. It almost seemed like the Blues knew they were in huge trouble after Toews connected. When Patrick Sharp scored 1:17 seconds later, the Hawks knocked the life out of the Blues.

In the most important period of the season for St. Louis the Blackhawks outshot them 16-8. The shot differential was a correct depiction of the edge in play. Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith added markers as the Hawks put a four spot up in the final frame.

In the opening 15 minutes, the Hawks were a step quicker and it looked like they wouldn’t be denied. The Blues were beat to almost every loose puck. The Hawks were able to get an early lead on a beautiful tip in by Bryan Bickell. The Blackhawks were playing their best hockey of the playoffs, but then they fell asleep for a few seconds and TJ Oshie tied the game.

The one habit that Joel Quenneville will look to end is a penchant for taking bad penalties. The Hawks took four consecutive penalties, the last one was a four minute double minor for high sticking to Marian Hossa in the second period. It looked like Hossa was merely following through on a pass when he struck Alexander Steen’s head with his stick. Evidently the referee thought differently and Hossa was sent off.

The Chicago penalty killers were outstanding once again as the Blues struck out on six attempts. For the series the Hawks PK unit was successful in killing 27 of 29 power plays. The Chicago PK unit eliminated the effectiveness of the Blues point men as Ken Hitchcock and his staff couldn’t make the necessary adjustments.

Those who seem to blame almost every loss on Corey Crawford will have to wait to make him the whipping boy. Crawford stole Game 3 and was outstanding in Game 6 as well. Crawford was at his best in the second period.

In the middle frame, the Blues had eight minutes of power play time and took a total of 17 shots. Crawford stopped many good scoring chances and held down the fort until the Chicago offense kicked in. Crawford outplayed Ryan Miller in the series and his numbers don’t lie.

Crawford posted a lofty .935 save percentage over the six games. It has been reported that during the four game win streak Crawford's save percentage was .952. During this season the top save percentage for a starting goaltender was Boston’s Tuukka Rask (.930).

Crawford is playing about as well as he ever has. If Crawford can continue performing at this high level the Hawks have a great chance to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.

The Blues deserve credit for pushing the Hawks but they were in a great position and wound up losing four in a row. It has to be particularly disappointing after the successful season they had. Many thought St. Louis was going to capture their first Stanley Cup after they acquired Miller before the trade deadline.

Miller was OK but he needed to be better considering how Crawford performed. The Blues couldn’t match the high end skill of Blackhawk forwards and didn’t have as many players who could finish.

St. Louis had two forwards: Vladimir Tarasenko and Oshie who scored at least two goals. The Blackhawks had six players who scored two goals or more and two were defensemen.

Colorado and Minnesota will square off in Game 6 Monday night.

The Av’s lead the series and with a win can advance to face the Hawks. If the series goes to a Game 7 the Blackhawks will get a longer rest as the next round won’t begin until this weekend.

For now the Blackhawks will use a few ice bags and enjoy a couple of days off. By the time they practice on Wednesday the players may know their next opponent.

Al’s Shots

In a surprising move Quenneville scratched Kris Versteeg and dressed Joakim Nordstrom in Game 6.

Versteeg wasn’t setting the world on fire and was relegated to the fourth line in Game 5. Quenneville seldom changes a winning lineup and seemingly always has a lot of patience with Versteeg but he went to the rookie Nordstrom.

The Hawks played with primarily three lines as Brandon Bollig skated for only 1:50 and Nordstrom was on the ice for just 2:07.

Next series Quenneville may need to use his fourth line more often.

Brent Seabrook returned and had a fine game. Seabrook actually played a very good series although he missed three games. Seabrook recorded two goals and four assists for six points.

The only players with a higher point total were Duncan Keith (7) who had a huge Game 6, and Toews (7).

Many players got better as the series went on, in particular Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger, Michal Handzus and Michal Rozsival.

Brandon Saad was much better in Games 5 and 6 as well.

Patrick Kane is dangerous and moving well. Kane made a nice touch pass to spring Sharp for the third goal.

Sharp is a streaky scorer but he always brings a big effort. Sharp was finally rewarded with his first goal of the series on Sunday.

Marian Hossa, like Sharp, only recorded one goal but he led the club with 29 shots.

You can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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