Watch: MacKinnon sets up Landeskog for beauty
The Blues lead the Blackhawks 2-0, but could easily be down 2-0, having scored in the final 90 seconds twice to tie things up and eventually get to overtime. With about three weeks to go in the regular season, the Blues were in the conversation as a possible Stanley Cup contender. Sports Illustrated went in and did a profile of goalie Ryan Miller. Their blue-collar work ethic was praised.
Then the bottom fell out – injuries and fatigue caused a six-game losing streak to end the season. There was always a sense that the Blues could get it back on track, and get stronger as the playoffs unfolded, if they could just get past the defending Stanley Cup champions. Chicago knows how to win and won’t be a pushover in their building, but Seabrook’s absence for the next three will hurt – he was actually their scoring leader in these playoffs, with four points in two games.
Moreover, someone needs to settle down Duncan Keith. The Norris Trophy candidate has been so distracted by the physical nature of the series – and his desire to bait Vladimir Tarasenko, by waving his stick in his face, is bizarre. Tarasenko ended up having the last laugh by scoring the tying goal on Saturday. Chicago has been known to go emotionally off the rails before – remember how Seabrook had to calm down Jonathan Toews in last year’s playoff series, after he started taking a series of undisciplined penalties. They’ll need to get that poise and composure back if they have any plans of getting back in the series.
SHORT TAKES: TSN has a pattern of dropping guest analysts into their playoff panels and Martin Biron, recently retired after starting with the New York Rangers, is back again, after previously having appeared on TV towards the end of his playing career. Sometimes, players are just naturals on the ice, like MacKinnon. Biron is a natural on TV. Even though English is his second language, he makes concise and cogent points the way a more seasoned analyst would – and can be pithy occasionally and critical when called upon. So few players are willing to say much of anything – think Nazem Kadri on Hockey Night In Canada Saturday – for fear of offending their peers. Biron is going to be a good one, if he doesn’t stray too far from his natural voice ... Not sure if anyone in the United States cares about the Allan Cup senior hockey championships, but good for play-by-play man (and fellow Hall of Fame selection committee member) Doc Emrick for giving a shout out to Jay McKee, the former Buffalo Sabres defenceman, who was part of the Dundas Real McCoys roster when they won the trophy Saturday, with an overtime victory over Newfoundland’s Clarenville Caribous ... Not every precocious youngster hits the ground running the way MacKinnon has. Over in the Columbus-Pittsburgh series is a good example of the need to occasionally be patient with a precocious prospect. Ryan Johansen was the fourth player chosen back in the 2010 entry draft, by the Blue Jackets, who sent him back to junior to play as an 18-year-old and had him in Springfield for the first half of last year, as the NHL went through the lockout. In 40 NHL games after January, Johansen had just 12 points and was playing a little over 16 minutes per night. But this year, at the age of 21, it finally all clicked. He became the team’s No. 1 offensive player, miles ahead of the rest of the hard-working Columbus crew, and even though he is now a defensive target, he managed to produce a couple of points in the second game OT win over Pittsburgh. Scott Howson was fired back in February of 2013, but he drafted, signed or traded for virtually all of the key pieces on this Blue Jackets’ team, from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, to defencemen Ryan Murray, Jack Johnson and James Wiesniewski to Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov up front. Those are the easier to recognize names. The draft wins are usually finding NHLers in the nether regions of the draft. Columbus is getting good minutes out of David Savard (94th in 2009), Matt Calvert (127th in 2008) and Cam Atkinson (157th in 2008). Whatever success Columbus may eventually have with this core, the fingerprints of the former GM will be all over it.
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