The Chicago Blackhawks have forced a seventh game against the St. Louis Blues thanks to a 6-3 victory in Game 6. Dale Weise scored the game-winner for Chicago in the second period as the Blackhawks held off the Blues in the final frame.
Dale Weise was acquired by the Blackhawks at the trade deadline with the belief that he would round out the third- or fourth-line and give Chicago the depth that makes a difference in the post-season. However, Weise has been scratched in three of six games in the first-round series against the St. Louis Blues, has averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time per game and hadn’t won coach Joel Quenneville’s favor. Well, that may have changed Saturday night.
Weise didn’t play much — he logged just 8:44 in Game 6 — but when he did he was incredibly effective. He used his speed on the forecheck to create opportunities, threw his weight around without running out of position and he was one of the more noticeable Blackhawks on the ice in the first period, even when things looked bleak as Chicago fell behind 3-1. But Weise’s biggest moment came with less then four minutes remaining in the second frame, after Artem Anisimov and Trevor van Riemsdyk had scored to help the Blackhawks claw back into the contest.
With the Blackhawks chasing the puck in the Blues’ zone, Artemi Panarin lifted the stick right out of Kevin Shattenkirk’s hand, and Weise came in to bowl over the Blues defenseman over as the puck laid in his feet. Weise then poked the puck behind the goal to Panarin, moved to the front of the net, opened himself up and called for a pass from the Russian rookie. He spotted Weise, and the winger with one of the best nicknames in all of hockey, ‘Dutch Gretzky,’ one-timed what would be the game-winning goal past Brian Elliott.
Weise’s goal set off the United Center crowd, and Chicago would hold the fort for the rest of the contest. A late power play goal by Andrew Shaw — who returned in Game 6 from his one-game suspension — and an empty-netter by Marian Hossa iced the game for the Blackhawks, but in a game Chicago won 6-3, it was Weise’s marker that will forever be the one that forced Game 7.
Even in the Blackhawks’ victory, though, there were some moments of concern. The let-down following an empty-net miss by Andrew Desjardins led to the Blues’ three-goal run in the first frame had the Blackhawks trying to fight out of a hole. And protecting a one-goal lead in the third period, Chicago was absolutely outmatched when it came to possessing the puck, being out-attempted by St. Louis 21-10 in the final frame. That’s not to mention the greatest moment of worry for the Blackhawks, though, which came when goaltender Corey Crawford appeared injured in the waning moments of the contest.
On a Blues power play late in the second frame, Crawford stopped a hard shot from defenseman Colton Parayko and the Chicago netminder immediately showed signs of discomfort. He held his side, went down to the ice and the Blackhawks’ training staff had to come onto the ice to speak with the netminder. There was reason to question whether Crawford would be back for the third, but he was on the ice to start the final frame. The Blackhawks should be thankful for that, too, as Crawford stopped all 11 shots that came his way in the third.
This all sets up an almost unthinkable Game 7. When the Blackhawks were trailing this series 3-1, few in Chicago would write off the defending Stanley Cup champions, but with Elliott’s play and the way St. Louis had contained Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, the comeback seemed incredibly unlikely. Yet, here we are.
But the same message holds true from the first six games of this series, and that’s that Kane and Toews will need to have one breakout game if Chicago wishes to advance. The Blues have gotten incredible performances from Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri, and now is the time for Kane and Toews to respond. Through six games, the Blackhawks have been carried not by their two stars but by the depth of the roster which has picked up Chicago when they needed it most.
In Game 7, it’s Kane and Toews who have to come to life if the Blackhawks want to complete the comeback. If not, the rival Blues will almost certainly ward off their divisional foe and advance to the second round for the first time in three seasons.