As Game 7 between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues draws near, lets take a look at “what to watch for” come puck drop.
Quite possibly the biggest thing to watch for in Game 7 will be the Blackhawks momentum. Heading into Monday’s matchup, the Blackhawks have erased an early series deficit winning the past two games of the series in exciting fashion. After being down 3-1 in Game 6, the Blackhawks rallied to score five unanswered goals to beat the Blues by a final score of 6-3. Whether its their veteran intelligence, or motivation to make Alex Pietrangelo eat his own words, the Blackhawks have stolen the momentum from the Blues. Once an overly confident hockey team, the Blues along with head coach Ken Hitchcock must be wondering what they can do differently to stop this Blackhawks team. This will not be an easy task to accomplish however as the Blackhawks sport an impressive 45-15 record, in Games 4-7 under head coach Joel Quenneville.
Another pivotal aspect to watch for in Game 7 will be the Blues’ level of confidence heading into Game 7. Although the Blues are not strangers to playing in the postseason, their regular season success has not translated to wins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These struggles have left many wondering what the future holds for Ken Hitchcock. If the Blues play scared or conservative, the Blackhawks will capitilize. When the Blues jumped out to an early 3-1 series lead, they played with confidence on offense, which lead to a smothering defense attack. If the Blues can generate an aggressive forecheck early on, they have the fire power to put up points, and get their anxious hometown crowd involved.
If the Blackhawks want to win Game 7, they need their star players to shine bright. One player to watch for is captain Jonathan Toews. Toews has not had a bad postseason by any means, registering five assists while being one of the best two-way players in the league. But after tying the NHL regular season record for overtime game winning goals, ‘Captain Serious’ still remains without a goal in the postseason. Always the ultimate competitor and big-game player, Toews has proven that he can rise to the ocassion. Toews has a knack for coming through in the clutch, and will look to do so again Monday night.
The Blues player to watch for in Game 7 will be Vladimir Tarasenko. Tarasenko has been a thorn in the side of the Blackhawks this series scoring four goals through the first six games. Tarasenko is the main Blues threat, and has been one of the most impressive players during the NHL playoffs thus far due to his offensive prowess. The Blackhawks will need to be as physical as possible with Tarasenko in Game 7, in order to limit his offensive chances. Tarasenko is mainly a one-way player at this point in his career, so the Blackhawks can limit his chances and effectiveness by controlling the puck in the St. Louis zone.
The Blackhawks defense will be another important aspect to watch for in Game 7, with David Rundblad expected to start in place of Michael Rozsival. Although Rundblad has played in the past two games, the Blues will look to attack his zone as much as possible based on his experience level. Easily the least experienced player on the Blackhawks roster, Rundblad could possibly provide the Blues with scoring oppurtunities. Look for Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Trevor van Riemsdyk to log some heavy minutes.
In a series chalked full of heavy hitting, fantastic goaltending, and pure determination, Game 7 between the Blackhawks and Blues will be can’t miss television for any hockey fan.