The Chicago Blackhawks will live to see another game.
With their backs against the wall in a must-win Game 5, the Blackhawks stayed alive for at least one more contest thanks to a wraparound goal by Patrick Kane three minutes into the second overtime. Kane used a slick move to get by sprawling Blues defenders before slipping the puck on goal only to watch it trickle wide, but the Blackhawks winger beat his check — and Blues goaltender Brian Elliott — around the net in order to sweep the loose puck home.
From his reaction alone it’s not hard to believe the winner was a relief for Kane, who had yet to find the back of the net in the playoffs following the best goal-scoring season of his career. It’s no doubt been frustrating for the Blackhawks star, but the same could be said for teammate and captain Jonathan Toews.
Kane and Toews combined for 74 goals and 164 points in the regular season, but had been shut down by Elliott and the Blues defense to the tune of zero goals and six assists heading into Game 5. It’s not as if the duo was without their chances, but a third period 2-on-1 was a microcosm of what has been a difficult series for Kane and Toews. The pair broke in with time to make something happen, but Toews’ cross-ice pass handcuffed Kane and his shot sailed high and wide. Minutes later, the Blues tied the game.
The failed 2-on-1 was only one of many frustrating moments for the Blackhawks’ stars. There was Toews’ blast off the crossbar and Elliott's stop on a partial breakaway, while Kane’s best attempt at a 1-on-1 move fell flat earlier in the contest and he seemed to have extremely limited time to operate. None of this is to mention games prior in which Elliott has had the numbers of both Kane and Toews just as much as he had in Game 5 up until Kane’s winner.
It’s tough luck for the Blackhawks that Kane and Toews have yet to find their grooves, too, because the rest of the team has stepped up throughout the series. Duncan Keith has been the same standout as always, while Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Marian Hossa made their presence felt with goals in Game 5. If that was paired with Kane and Toews taking over offensively, we could be looking at a much different series.
If the biggest talking point in Chicago is the absence of scoring from their stars, though, the storyline in St. Louis may be the emergence of Robby Fabbri. The 20-year-old winger has dazzled for much of the series and looked dangerous while maneuvering throughout the offensive zone, and he finally was rewarded for his efforts when he turned Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook inside out before rifling a puck past the blocker of Corey Crawford. He wasn’t done there, though, as he managed the secondary assist on the game-tying goal by David Backes when he made a falling pass to the blueline. Fabbri alone nearly helped the Blues seal the series, and it wouldn’t be surprising were he to have yet another dynamite outing in Game 6.
Fabbri’s play is only one reason the Blackhawks should continue to be concerned heading back to Chicago, even if some of the weight does feel lifted following the overtime victory. The Blues clawed back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and dominated the contest from the start of the third and throughout the first overtime. There’s no doubt Chicago’s thankful that Corey Crawford was able to stand tall when called upon in the first overtime. The Blackhawks netminder faced some difficult stops in overtime but he helped extend Chicago’s season in a game which few would deny the defending Stanley Cup champions were thoroughly outplayed. Kane's winner stole the game for the Blackhawks, and Crawford's play in the first overtime set that up.
In Game 6, the Blackhawks are going to need more of the same from Crawford, but the onus has to be on Kane and Toews. This is the time for the two faces of the franchise to step up and attempt to shift the momentum in the Blackhawks’ favor. Because while depth scoring is nice, if Chicago’s dynamic duo doesn’t make some noise early, Game 6 could be the last game of the campaign for the Blackhawks.