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
What a perfect start to the 2014 Western Conference Finals: with a 3-1 victory over the LA kings in Game 1 Sunday the Hawks ran their record at home to 7-0, setting a franchise record in the process and establishing themselves as the rightful favorites in this series between the last two Stanley Cup Champions.
The home team started off fast and got on the scoreboard via Brandon Saad, who scored his third goal of the playoffs on the power play off a tip at the 14 minute, 46 second mark of the first period, giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead. After playing Game 7 in Anaheim on Friday, experts thought that the Kings would be fatigued after traveling to Chicago on short notice but that didn’t show right away and the second period was convincing backup.
The road team re-set the tone offensively, putting a wealth of shots on Hawks goalie Corey Crawford, who didn’t waver. In general the Hawks remained solid and they even had what looked to be a lead-cushioning goal early in the second period when Jonathan Toews went hard to the net, crashing into Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick and getting the puck in the back of the net, but the would-be score it was disallowed because of incidental contact to the goalie.
L.A. took swift advantage just 73 seconds later as they responded with Tyler Toffoli netting home his third goal of the playoffs off a tip (4:35) and tying the game at 1-1. The next punch was delivered by Chicago, though, as defenseman Duncan Keith scored his third goal of the playoffs off a slap, shot giving the Hawks back the lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish. The Kings continued pressure in their rally stance, drawing two penalties on the Hawks and dominating the shots on goal category for the period (17-6) on the strength of their man advantages.
As the third period developed, the Kings were turned away twice on their man advantage but were still very much in striking distance. The Hawks stayed within their game plan and were rewarded when captain Jonathan Toews sealed the deal with his sixth goal of the playoffs, putting in a wrist shot off a sweet pass from defenseman Johnny Oduya at 16:10 to take command with a 3-1 lead.
Looking at the goalie efforts, Crawford stood above his competition, making saves both key and otherwise to the tune of 25 of 26 shots stopped, good for a .962 save percentage for the game. Quick’s Game 1 qualifies as a rough start for the series as the Kings’ stopper only collected 17 saves while posting a save percentage of .850.
If there’s anything that the Kings can take away from Game 1 it is that they out-hit the Hawks by a 34-25 margin and out-shot them as well (26-20), but they’ll need to get more offense out of those physical advantages in order to swing momentum their way this series.
CHI — Marian Hossa posted 2 assists.
CHI — Nick Leddy contributed with one assist and three blocked shots.
CHI — Brent Seabrook lead the team in hits (5).
CHI — Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook tied for the team lead in blocked shots (4).
CHI — Went 1-2 on the power play.
LA — Tanner Pearson and Jeff Carter combined for 2 assists.
LA — Trevor Lewis lead the team in hits (5).
LA — Slava Voynov lead the team in blocked shots (4).
LA — Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Marian Gaborik combined for 0 points.
LA — Went 0-2 on the power play.
CHI — Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane combined for 0 points.
Looking At Game 2
The Hawks picked up where they left last series in net, getting great goaltending from Corey Crawford to set the foundation for the team’s effort. Crawford has given up just two total goals in his last two games.
Fatigue became a factor late in Game 1 for the Kings, who just played their second Game 7 of this year’s playoffs on Friday, but give them credit for making the Hawks earn a Game 1 win at home. With a extra day between Games 1 and 2 expect the Kings to play much better, forcing the tempo defensively and creating more chances in front of Crawford.
The Hawks must continue to put pressure and traffic in front of Jonathan Quick and stay disciplined as they were Sunday with only four total penalty minutes. Will the Hawks continue to take care of home ice? Will Jonathan Quick put together a performance to match Crawford? Will Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik step up and carry the Kings offensively? We’ll likely get these answers in Game 2 Wednesday night.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
Game 2: Wednesday, 7 PM CT (NBCSN)
Game 3: May 24, at Los Angeles, 7 PM CT (NBC)
Game 4: May 26, at Los Angeles, 8 PM CT (NBCSN)
Game 5: May 28th, 7 PM CT (NBCSN)*
Game 6: May 30th, at Los Angeles, 8 PM CT (NBCSN)*
Game 7: June 1, 7 PM CT (NBCSN)*
*= If Necessary
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