Just a few days ago, Blues captain David Backes was wearing a walking boot. In Thursday’s thrilling 4-3 triple-overtime victory over Chicago in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, Backes saw 33 minutes, 33 seconds of ice time.
Asked how he would have answered someone who told him before the game that he would play 14 minutes more than his season average, Backes replied: “I might have slapped them in the face.”
Alex Pietrangelo played 44:08 — nearly 20 minutes than his team-high average of 25:21. On Friday, a day in which the Blues held an optional practice that was only lightly attended, Pietrangelo said: “I’m alive, I’m awake. Legs are a little bit stiff, but I feel no different than a normal game, even though it felt like we played two games.”
Jay Bouwmeester missed the entire second overtime with what the Blues reported was dehydration, but returned for the third OT. On whether Bouwmeester bounced back Friday, Hitchcock joked: “I wouldn’t call it ‘bounce,’ but he’s here and he’s upright.”
If facing each other in a blockbuster opening-round series wasn’t demanding enough, the Blues and Blackhawks will be to the test in Game 2 today at 2 p.m., only about 38 hours after Alexander Steen brought out the Zamboni with his curtain-caller in Game 1.
“I think (Friday) was a big day for the players,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “There were a couple meetings, getting the guys ready. You’ve got to do things a day ahead and hope like heck they remember. (Saturday) is just basically come to the rink, general reminders and let’s play. It’s a very difficult challenge for the players to come after a long night game, to come back and play a day game. It’s very challenging.”
The game lasted 100 minutes and 36 seconds. The teams combined for 94 shots, loads of great saves by the goalies and one temper tantrum.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville apologized Friday for making an obscene gesture while reacting to a call that wasn't made in the first overtime. He was fined $25,000 for inappropriate conduct.
"I was definitely excited. Disappointed with the call, but I apologize for my behavior," Quenneville said. "It wasn't very appropriate at all. It was a bush-league move on my part."
Blues forward Ryan Reaves was in the penalty box for delay of game after flipping the puck in the stands when defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, while jousting with a Blackhawks player, also inadvertently flipped one over the glass. Quenneville raised his arm in protest and then grabbed his crotch after officials elected not to call a second penalty that would have given Chicago a 5-on-3 advantage for about a half-minute.
"I saw the highlight," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "Joel's a passionate coach and he's intense on the bench. I think sometimes he wants to get his skates on and go out there and play with us."
There’s a chance that the Blues and Blackhawks will have no lineup changes for today’s game, although T.J. Oshie (upper-body injury) did skate in the optional practice Friday and could make his playoff debut in Game 2. Patrik Berglund (upper-body injury) also skated Friday but he’s not expected to return until later in the series.
Oshie, who it seems had a setback in his attempt to return in time for the start of the series, raced down the hallway to the ice surface at the Blues’ practice facility Friday and exclaimed “Here we go! Here we go!” just before taking his first stride.
Quenneville indicated Friday that he was not leaning toward making any alterations to his group. But if Game 1 was a sign of the way that Hitchcock and Quenneville will approach the series from a personnel perspective, many of the Blues and Hawks players will be seeing significant ice time. Both clubs were utilizing four lines early in Thursday’s game, and that proved beneficial considering how long the game lasted.
It may be even more critical today.
“I think with the depth of both teams, fatigue, if it’s a factor, it’s probably going to be pretty evenly displaced through the both lineups,” Backes said. “I don’t think it will be something that either team can rest on or think that they’re going to have an advantage of. I think the coaching staffs on both teams have been in situations like this before and they’ll be pretty smart about it and spread out the work load.
“You realize that your first two lines, if they’re really tired, they’re not as productive as the fresh third- or fourth-line guy and you start to distribute minutes that way. It’s whatever it takes to win and we feel like we’ve got 20 guys that are bought into our game plan and how we need to win.”
Five things to watch for in Game 2 of Blackhawks-Blues:
FATIGUE FACTOR: Everyone played a lot, and it's a short break before they return to the ice for Game 2 on Saturday afternoon.
Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson played 40 minutes each and 11 others — eight of them Blues — played 30 or more minutes.
St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who holds the longest iron man streak in major sports with 717 consecutive games played in the regular season, fell just short of 30 minutes after becoming dehydrated in the first overtime.
Despite the workload in Game 1, 10 Blues players skated Friday. The Blackhawks did not practice.
GREAT GOALTENDING: Miller surrendered three goals on seven shots in the first period, a continuation of his slump that coincided with the Blues' six-game losing streak to end the regular season. He finished with 32 saves in a row, many of them spectacular.
Corey Crawford was almost as good and faced a lot more rubber, totaling 48 saves.
"Honestly, I don't even think about it," Crawford said. "I feel like I just kind of get in the zone and I'm just reading the plays."
INJURY UPDATE: Blackhawks stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews also came back from lengthy layoffs without missing a beat. Kane's breakaway goal put Chicago up 3-2 late in the first period and Toews had two assists.
"They were both really good in a lot of ways," Quenneville said. "Kaner had the puck a lot, made a lot of nice plays. Taser played his normal game, he's so reliable and effective in all areas and we use him in all situations."
TIGHTER DEFENSE: Don't look for a repeat of the five-goal first period. Backes said the start of Game 1 was the "track meet" the Blackhawks desired.
"I didn't mind the way we played," Quenneville said. "We had the lead, we were close to getting it finished. Certainly, you'll take your lumps."
PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE: The Blackhawks played six overtime games en route to the Cup last season, going 4-2. They've learned to compartmentalize and Quenneville plans no lineup changes and Crawford said "I don't think anyone's really worried in our locker room."
''I don't know that there's much to dwell on," Sharp added. "It's a tough loss. It's a part of the playoffs."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.