Seabrook returned for Game 6, a 5-1 win for the Blackhawks that was close for two periods before Chicago pulled away. Seabrook finished with six points in the three games he played. That Chicago won so easily was remarkable for a lot of reasons, including the fact that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both had lengthy injury absences leading into the playoffs, but managed to get their legs going early and were firing on all cylinders by the end.
Each team had 10 players in the Olympics; and each team had injury issues down the stretch, but Chicago proved to be the far more resilient team, and when St. Louis challenged – as they did in the second period Sunday, riding all those power-play opportunities into a 17-3 shot advantage – they couldn’t get a second goal past Corey Crawford in the Chicago net.
St. Louis finished two-for-29 for the series with the man advantage, just not good enough if the Blues legitimately expect to challenge for the Stanley Cup one of these years. This is the second year in a row in which St. Louis took a 2-0 opening-round series lead and then lost four in a row. The two-headed goaltending monster of Halak and Brian Elliott took the brunt of the blame over the previous two years (Halak couldn’t go in 2012 because of an injury) and it was why Ryan Miller was brought in at great expense from the Buffalo Sabres at the trading deadline – the notion that he was the missing piece of the puzzle. Miller had an okay playoff, but it’s hard to imagine he did enough to convince the Blues to sign him to an expensive multi-year contract in the offseason to get the job done.
St. Louis does have a top young goalie in the organization – Jake Allen, voted top goalie in the AHL this season. Allen’s presence in the organization convinced the Blues to trade Ben Bishop to Ottawa in February of 2012, on the theory that Allen had the greater upside. Might be time to see if that’s actually so.
SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS: The concern in San Jose, apart from Vlasic’s injury, is how to sort out the goaltending, with the momentum completely shifting to the Los Angeles side. Minnesota received a big boost from Darcy Kuemper’s return and the feeling has been that San Jose would like to see more of Alex Stalock, who came on in relief of starter Antti Niemi after Niemi had given up three goals to the Kings Saturday night.
Niemi wasn’t great, but he wasn’t flat-out awful either. But there was a sense that the Sharks would keep Niemi on a short leash just because he’d had an up-and-down time of it during the regular season. Stalock stopped all 22 shots he faced, but even so, it would be a major move to switch to him for Game 6 in L.A. Monday, with the Kings now having a breath of life, after falling behind 3-0 in a series many thought would go down to the wire. Now, it looks as if it actually could.
The Kings, meanwhile, are getting far better work from Jonathan Quick these past two games, which also included his eighth career shutout Saturday night. Quick gave up 16 goals in the first three games of the series, with a garish .852 save percentage and then just three in the next two, with a more typical (for him) .957 save percentage. Psychologically, it was also important for the Kings to prove they could win a game up in San Jose, where they’d managed just one victory in their previous 13 visits, combining regular-season and playoff games.
If L.A. wants to record a comeback for the ages by winning four in a row after losing the first three, they’ll need one more victory at the Shark Tank. In the meantime, San Jose defenceman Matt Irwin, who was the odd man out for the first five games of the Kings-Sharks series, likely jumps in as Vlasic’s replacement.