“The time for message-sending has ended,” Ken Hitchcock declared before a group of reporters early Wednesday. The St. Louis Blues coach was referring to the nuclear-powered hits that had been delivered by his team and the Chicago Blackhawks early in the series. Those full-bore blasts were being phased out as the stakes continued to rise, and on that specific point, he was correct. But there was no doubt that the results of the teams’ Game 4 showdown delivered an unambiguous message:
The defending Stanley Cup champions won’t go away easily — if at all.
The Blackhawks aren’t making it easy on themselves, either. This time, they blew a two-goal lead before Patrick Kane’s overtime score gave them the 4-3 win and evened their first round series at two games apiece. Still, despite their imperfections, their inexplicable early departure from their core philosophy of speed and precision, and their mind-numbing penalties on Wednesday, the Blackhawks basically had all four games of this series won. They’ve had to settle for two victories without yet compiling a completely dominating effort. That’s a dangerous spot for the Blues to be in, even if they’re heading back home to the Scottrade Center for Game 5 on Friday.
“They’ve got the momentum now,” Hitchcock said after watching his team’s 2-0 series lead evaporate in Chicago. “We’ve got to find a way to regroup and take it back from them. That’s a big challenge for us. We’re going to have a little bit of a heart-to-heart and get back on our toes again.”
Here are more assorted thoughts from the third overtime tilt in what is fast becoming the best first-round series, by far, of this postseason: