Well, I must admit, I had the old Panic Bus warmed up after the first period of the Blues’ first game against Chicago. The Note had wasted the momentum gained after scoring the first goal, then regained the home crowd on Vladimir Tarasenko’s first ever postseason tally. That jolt didn’t benefit the Blues, either, as they allowed Patrick Kane to skate in alone on Ryan Miller and score 2:32 after Tarasenko’s tally, making it 3-2 Chicago after one period.
After the first period, Miller had allowed three goals on seven shots. The offense, aside from Tarasenko and the energy line of Chris Porter, Max Lapierre and Adam Cracknell, looked flat and out of sorts. As it turned out, the Blues were knocking off the rust from many of their players being out of action for the stretch run of the regular season. But when they found their groove – especially Miller – they stayed in it for the rest of the game.
Miller stopped the last 35 shots he faced, turning in some brilliant saves in the process. The Blues killed off five consecutive penalties, including back-to-backers in the third period and delay of game calls in the first and second overtimes. They were called for six penalties to Chicago’s four, even though the two referees could have easily called as many against the Blackhawks.
The Scottrade Center crowd (with perhaps 1,000 Blackhawk fans) was outstanding, even though it got worn out like the players did in the second overtime. As it turns out, some of the Blues’ injuries may have been a blessing in disguise for this one. Of the Blues skaters on the ice for the winning goal in the third overtime, only Jay Bouwmeester played in Sunday’s regular-season finale against Detroit. Alexander Steen, who scored the game-winner, sat out that game, as did Alex Pietrangelo and Steve Ott. Captain David Backes had been injured against Washington and missed the last three games, and looked fresher than others late in overtime, too.
I said in “The Fast Lane” that this series would be highly competitive and probably have several overtime games. We had one of those in Game 1. I also thought Pietrangelo would be a key in terms of setting the tone. He played a team-high 44:08 and was plus-one. With Bouwmeester batting an injury during the game, Petro had to shoulder even more of a load, and played eight and a half more minutes than the Blue with the second most, Steen.
Joel Quenneville played four defensemen at least 36:33 and had two, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who played at least 40 minutes. Game 2 starts 38 hours after Game 1 ended, so it’ll be interesting to see how the players react.
Ultimately, the Blues scored more goals in regulation than they had in their last nine regular-season games, where they had scored two or less. Miller’s last four periods were shutout periods – the best play we’ve seen from him since April 1 against Philadelphia. Because of what they did, everything fell the Blues’ way after the first period. Now they need to be the fresher team and maintain home-ice advantage in Game 2. If the last four-plus periods in Game 1 were the rule rather than the exception, the Blues we saw for the first 70 games of the season may be back. And if that’s the case, the rest of the NHL had better watch out. And we can keep that Panic Bus on blocks for the rest of the spring and summer.