Blues vs. Blackhawks Boiling Over: St. Louis Takes 2-0 Lead in Physical Series

Steve Macfarlane@@MacfarlaneHKYFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2014

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Somewhere up on the big screen at the Scottrade Center with the shot clock, timer and score, there should be a special section for the body count.

There isn’t a more savage series in the first round of these NHL playoffs than the one between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks.

Behind-the-play slashes are occurring nearly every shift. There were more scrums than at a rugby game. The targeted checks on guys recovering from injury are rampant.

None was more vicious than the one directed at David Backes in the dying minutes of the third period.

It changed the complexion of the game, and maybe the series.

With Backes playing the puck on the cycle behind the Blackhawks net, defenseman Brent Seabrook flew in on the vulnerable Blues captain and crushed him with a shoulder to the head. Backes’ helmet then bounced off the end boards.

He crumpled to the ice and was visibly wobbly as he tried to join the resulting fray before being ushered away by the refs.

The impact was massive on so many levels: a five-minute powerplay for the Blues and the ejection of one of the team’s best penalty killers, who could face suspension from the league as a result.

Took some Twitter time off today. Anything happen? Yikes. I have to believe CHI's Seabrook likely to be suspended for hit on Backes.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 19, 2014

I think Seabrook gets 2 games. #Hawks

— Matthew Barnaby (@MattBarnaby3636) April 19, 2014

Down 3-2 at the time after surrendering three straight goals to the Blackhawks to fall behind, the Blues made their Central Division rivals pay with a late goal from Vladimir Tarasenko to send the game to overtime for a second straight time.

Just six seconds were left on the clock this time. In Game 1, there was 1:45 left when the Blues got the equalizer.

Defenseman Barret Jackman sent a long shot through traffic that found its way under Corey Crawford’s pads 5:50 into overtime to send the series to Chicago with the Blues up 2-0 on the defending Stanley Cup champions.

The cushion won’t mean much to the Blues, who were up on the Los Angeles Kings by the same margin last spring only to lose the next four games to drop the series in disappointing fashion.

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 19: Members of the St. Louis Blues celebrate after beating the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime in Game Two of the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 19, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Blue
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

They know they will have to keep the pressure on and the physical play coming to wear the Blackhawks down and prevent them from establishing momentum.

The Hawks will certainly reciprocate on the physical side. These teams do not like each other. And with the hit from Seabrook, that dislike hits a whole new level.

Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk suggested on the NHL Network after the game that the edgy play was what he anticipated coming in.

“We expected this kind of nastiness in the series,” Shattenkirk said. “We’re two teams that don’t like each other that much. It’s an emotional game. There’s a lot of heated arguments and rivalries and matchups out there. It was a tough hit to watch. We’ll see what happens with the review from the league.”

Losing Seabrook for any time at all in this series will be costy for the Blackhawks. The next defenseman up would be Sheldon Brookbank, a 33-year-old veteran not known for his footspeed, and the preference may be to dress 13 forwards instead.

The rough stuff wasn’t limited to that one defining play, however.

The Hawks’ Bryan Bickell dished out a nasty knee-on-knee hit on Vladimir Sobotka.

NHL taking look at both Bryan Bickell's kneeing to Vladimir Sobotka and Brent Seabrook's hit on David Backes. No word yet on hearings.

— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) April 19, 2014

Duncan Keith, who helped get the Blackhawks going with a goal late in the second period before fellow defensemen Seabrook and Michal Rozsival scored to give the Blackhawks their first lead in the third, was constantly taking aim at the hands and wrists of the Blues forwards in front of his net and in the open ice.

Jackman told NBC in a postgame interview the future of this series will look much the same as the first two games.

“There’s no love loss between the Blues and Blackhawks,” he said. “We knew it was going to be like that. It’s going to be like that again in Chicago.”

As much as no one likes to see a play like the one on Backes—who Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said was “not good” when talking to reporters after the game, aired on the NHL Network—the bad blood that has been escalating in the series will make this arguably the most entertaining series of the opening round.

With the new divisional playoff format, it could be something we see every spring.

Like the Detroit Red Wings and Colorado Avalanche head-to-head clashes in the late 1990s and early 2000s, hockey full of hatred is pretty darn fun to watch.