Blues Defeat Blackhawks in First Round of 2016 Playoffs
Coming into the 2016 postseason, the St. Louis Blues had their backs up against the wall. They’d been eliminated in the first round of three straight postseasons, with a playoff series win having evaded them since 2012. At the same time, the archrival Chicago Blackhawks had been absolutely dominant over the previous seven seasons, having won 16 playoff series and three Stanley Cups over that period.
As the Blues headed into their fifth straight preseason, facing Chicago in the first round for the second time in three years, they were at a crossroads. Another first-round series loss would likely spell the end of Ken Hitchcock’s tenure in St. Louis and trigger a major roster reconstruction; a win over the Blackhawks, meanwhile, would be unbelievably momentous and could be the fuel that the Blues would need to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970.
The Blues got things started in dominant fashion, defeating the Hawks 1-0 at Scottrade Center in Game 1 as Brian Elliott earned his first career postseason shutout. They suffered a disappointing loss in Game 2, but after two unbelievably hard-fought wins at United Center in Games 3 and 4–including a Game 4 victory in which Vladimir Tarasenko scored two goals, while Chicago’s Andrew Shaw earned himself a one-game suspension by uttering a homophobic slur from the penalty box.
All the momentum was seemingly in the Blues’ hands heading into Game 5, as they possessed a 3-1 lead and were playing on home ice against a Shaw-less Blackhawks team. The Blues started off slow, though, falling behind 3-1 after two periods. Third-period goals from Robby Fabbri and David Backes tied it up, but a goal from Patrick Kane early in the second overtime reduced the Blackhawks’ series deficit to one game.
The Blues looked their worst in Game 6, when they took a 3-1 lead within the first 11 minutes of the game, only to relinquish it by 12:21 of the second period. They subsequently lost all momentum and ended up falling 6-3. Even as they returned home to Scottrade, things looked bleak for the Blues in Game 7 as they faced an amped-up Blackhawks team that had a very strong recent history of coming back and winning series.
Game 7 was about as tightly-contested as a postseason game can be. After taking a 2-0 lead on goals from Colton Parayko and Jori Lehtera, the Blackhawks tied it up early in the second period. Luckily for the Blues, Troy Brouwer settled things once and for all at 8:31 in the third period, getting in front of the net and scoring on a rebound of his own shot.
Brian Elliott didn’t give up another goal, and the Blues earned their first series win over the Blackhawks since 2002, only their fourth overall in 12 postseason series. While they couldn’t quite pull off a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, falling to the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, it was the longest playoff run the franchise had experienced in a generation, and the series win over the Blackhawks will live on in the memories of Blues fans forever.