By Sidney Brown, WARR contributor
Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks was fast-paced from the word GO! And by its end, only one team maintained the pace, that would be the Hawks, who took a 4-1 victory and an early series lead.
Striking first Wednesday night was Chicago’s Marian Hossa at 9:03 in the first period on the power play, his fourth goal of the playoffs, but soon after Detroit’s rookie standout Damien Brunner found the back of the net (10:57), tying the score at 1-1. As the second period began, the intensity of the playoffs — perhaps fueled by this long-standing rivalry — picked up with hard hits, both sides playing tight defense and strong cross-checking.
In all, seven total penalties were called (Detroit took the lion’s share with four) but not much scoring occurred, that is until the third period.
The final 20 opened with a flurry of scoring chances and it was the Hawks that took advantage by netting goals from Johnny Oduya (8:02), Marcus Kruger (11:23) and an empty-netter by Patrick Sharp (19:11), his sixth of the playoffs, to send the United Center crowd home extra happy.
With their pressure defense forcing the issue, the Hawks forced the Red Wings into turning the puck over much more than it wanted to and that turned into Chicago out-shooting the Red Wings 17-5 for the third period alone and by 21 for the entire game (42-21). Both starting goaltenders, Corey Crawford (CHI) and Jimmy Howard (DET), played stellar, but Crawford got the help he needed from his defensemen, who held down the fort, especially late in the game, and shut out the Red Wings in three power play chances.
Howard managed to make the play of the game, though, when he stopped Hawks sniper Dave Bolland (in his first game back from a groin injury) on a breakaway attempt just over four minutes into the third period.
The Hawks’ upper hand is clear after Game 1 but Detroit will have two days to recover and regain some sharpness come Game 2 Saturday afternoon.
First, Chicago Blackhawks special teams — i.e. the penalty kill.
The Hawks are now a perfect 20 for 20 in the playoffs in penalty kill by blanking Detroit on their man advantage in Game 1 (0-3).
Second, Jonathan Toews of the Hawks and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk were announced as two of the three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy for Best Defensive Forward in the NHL Wednesday morning. Boston’s Patrice Bergeron is the remaining finalist.
Third, the Hawks’ Sharp now moves into fourth in the NHL in playoff scoring this season (six goals, three assists) with his three point performance in Game 1.
And last, BUT DEFINITELY NOT LEAST, the Chicago Blackhawks fans made a difference from the opening face-off to the end of the game, memorably chanting my favorite song, “DETROIT SUCKS!, DETROIT SUCKS!.”
My Game Puck for Game 1 goes to Sharp for his well-rounded offensive performance. Game 2 is set for Saturday afternoon at 12 pm central.
Sidney Brown is a veteran in sports radio, having worked for Sporting News Radio for several years. Sidney has followed hockey since 1993, the year after the Blackhawks lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. A huge Hawks fan, Sidney went to his first game in April of 1999. He proudly owns 14 Hawks jerseys.
Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1.