By Sidney Brown, WARR contributor
Coming off the emotional seven game bout it had with the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks carried momentum into their 2-1 victory in Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Finals, taking a 1-0 series lead in the process.
The Hawks controlled the pace from the opening face off in the first period by out-shooting the Kings by a 17-2 margin in the first 20. Meanwhile, the Kings established their physical style of play, out-hitting the Hawks 18-16 in the first period. It was the Kings’ style that won out early, helping them produce the game’s first goal. Kings winger Justin Williams netted his fifth goal of the playoffs off a turnover by Hawks goalie Corey Crawford.
As the second period began, the Kings continued clamping down on the Hawks offensive attack, but the Hawks stayed with their game plan and added on to it. Big hits by wingers Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw midway through the second helped create scoring chances and the Hawks took full advantage. Patrick Sharp’s eighth goal of the playoffs (12:29, 2nd period) followed as did Marian Hossa’s sixth (16:22, 2nd), each man finding holes around Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
The third period was a stellar showcase for the Hawks and Crawford, who made key saves down the stretch and shut the door on any chance of a Kings victory. The Hawks continued to dominate the shots on goal category, finishing with a 14 shot advantage (36-22). My Game Puck for Game 1 goes to Crawford for his outstanding performance, especially with how he stepped up in the third period. Crawford would tally 21 saves on 22 shots with a .955% save percentage. Game 2 is set for tonight at 7 pm at the United Center and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
First, to the Hawks penalty kill, as strong as ever in shutting down the Kings in their man advantage (0-2).
Second, to Kings standout goaltender Jonathan Quick. Even in a loss, Quick stood tall, keeping his team in the game with 34 saves.
Third, to Hawks fourth-liner Dave Bolland, who delivered a vicious hit on Kings sniper Mike Richards in the closing minutes of the game. All that I can say about that hit on Richards is OUCH!!
And last but not least, to the NBC Sports Network for showing the National Anthem at the UC, which is the best tradition in the NHL. Also, for its new announcing crew covering the Kings/Hawks series in Dave Strader, Darren Pang and Brian Engblom. I know Hawks fans will miss Eddie Olcyzk, who will be covering the Boston/Pittsburgh series, but this crew was not bad Saturday. Strader, in my opinion, is very underrated as a play by play announcer, he’s in my top three next to Mike “Doc” Emrick and Hawks announcer Pat Foley.
First, to the Hawks power play unit for going 0-4 in their man advantage. Hawks special teams cannot keep playing like that as this series goes along.
Second, to the Kings power play unit (0-2). L.A.’s struggles on the power play, especially on the road, must turn around quickly if it expects to knock off the Hawks.
Last but not least, to Kings leading scorer Jeff Carter for taking a dumb tripping penalty on Bolland late in the third period, which took a big hit to any chance the Kings had to score the potential game-tying goal in the final minutes.
No rest is afforded for either team with Game 2 set for tonight. Will the Hawks stick to the effective game plan of offensive aggression and big hits that helped them win Game 1? Will the Kings ramp up their physical play in an effort to gain control? Will their offensive game pick up at all? And will the Hawks power play get back on track at all? Look for answers to these questions as Game 2 comes at us quick like Bolland on an unsuspecting puck handler.
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