WARR’s hockey writer Sidney Brown offers his takes on the Blackhawks throughout their postseason run as well as predictions on the rest of the NHL
There was a different tone for the Chicago Blackhawks to start their Western Conference Semifinal series than they did in their previous series.
Where the opener against St. Louis saw the Hawks lose out in a marathon struggle, this time around began with a 5-2 win for the Hawks in Game 1. The Hawks came out on fire and their efforts paid off early as Bryan Bickell scored his first goal of the game and third of the playoffs on the power play giving the home team an early 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the first period.
Towards the end of the opening period, Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner nailed Hawks center Andrew Shaw along the boards, forcing Shaw to leave the game with a lower body injury. As the second period began, Minnesota picked up their pace, out-shooting the Hawks by a 17-3 margin, but the Hawks would add another goal on the power play, this time from Marian Hossa. His second goal of the playoffs, off a nice pass from Brandon Saad, gave the men in red a 2-0 lead.
The third period began with a burst of energy from the Wild, who pressured the Hawks defensively and created turnovers. Minnesota’s surge paid off when Stoner scored his first goal of the playoffs off a slap shot that barely got passed Corey Crawford, cutting the lead in half at 2-1. The road team continued to make an impact with Kyle Brodziak, who chipped in his third goal of the playoffs on a tip-in to tie the game at 2-2. With the Wild now holding momentum, who could step up for the home team to re-gain control?
The answer was Patrick Kane, who skated across center ice — showing off his skills with a backhand shot — to net home his first goal of the game and fourth of the playoffs and give the Hawks a 3-2 lead. The game’s next goal was also Kane’s as he struck off a sweet pass from Ben Smith, extending Chicago’s lead to 4-2. Bickell concluded matters with his second goal of the game on an empty net to give the game its final score.
In goal, Hawks goalie Corey Crawford was stellar, keeping his team in the game while making key stops and not giving up many rebounds. Crawford finished the game with 30 saves while posting a .938 save percentage. On the other end, Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov played well, but not well enough, only stopping 17 of 21 shots with a save percentage of .810.
One thing to take away from Game 1 is that the Hawks got their power play back on track and Crawford is continuing his stellar play, standing on his head in many ways. After giving up the tying goal in the third period, Crawford beared down and while his contained the Wild the rest of the way as his teammates took care of the offense. The Wild led well in hits (37-24) and blocked shots (19-10) but to keep up with the Hawks they get the puck in the net with consistency.
CHI — Hawks scored on half their power play chances (2-4).
CHI — Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook each with 2 assists.
CHI — Brandon Bollig lead the team in Hits (7).
CHI — Won the faceoff category (37-30).
MIN — Zach Parise and Dany Heatley each recorded one assist.
MIN — Clayton Stoner lead the team in hits (6).
MIN — Wild were shut out in the power play (0-3).
MIN — Ryan Suter and Mikka Koivu combined for O points.
Giving Extra Props
*Hawks defenseman and Norris Trophy nominee Duncan Keith was named one of three finalists for the 2014 NHL Foundation Player Award in recognition for his work in the community.
Looking At Game 2
Unlike in the previous series, the Hawks got off on the right track and set themselves up for future success by winning the first game. In spite of the Wild tying the game early in the third period, the Hawks responded like champions and got the job done.
For the Wild — who played well in spots, especially defensively — the question remains of who will step up the scoring on a constant basis? Heading into Sunday’s game more questions include whether the Wild can carry their second period and early third period play into the game and possibly turn it into a 60 minute effort?
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
Game 2: Sunday, 2 PM CT (NBC)
Game 3: Tuesday, 8 PM CT (CNBC)
Game 4: May 9th, TBA
Game 5: May 11th, TBA *
Game 6: May 13th, TBA *
Game 7: May 15th, TBA *
*= If Necessary
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