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
Falling behind 3-0 and seeing starting goalie Corey Crawford get pulled out the game mid-way was not at all the kind of start the Chicago Blackhawks wanted to this year’s playoff run.
Still, a game stolen is not a game wasted. No matter how tough it got for the Hawks, at the end of a long and challenging Game 1 Chicago scored last and that meant a 4-3 double overtime win on road ice.
Game 1 provided more than a few revelations for the Hawks, among them: Duncan Keith is not afraid of the big moment. The star defenseman delivered his first career game-winning postseason goal at 7 minutes, 49 seconds into the second overtime to give Chicago a precious 1-0 series lead.
Another revelation: the Hawks have a second goaltender they can trust in this postseason. Rookie backup Scott Darling was stellar in his first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff game, stopping all 42 shots he faced and maintaining veteran-like composure while mostly playing in a game where his team was not in control.
Darling clearly was the night’s MVP, especially in the third period when Nashville came on with a flurry of offensive rushes. The Predators out-muscled and out-hit the Hawks in trying to keep themselves ahead after building a 3-0 lead but the game’s second half belonged to the Hawks and when it mattered the more experienced playoff squad answered the bell, not the franchise that was playing in its first playoff game in three seasons.
Hawks goalie Corey Crawford stopped only 9 of 12 shots, ending his night early after giving up three goals in one period of service.
The Predators went to work right away when Colin Wilson netted home the first goal of the series at the 6:07 mark of the opening period, giving the home team an early 1-0 lead. The onslaught continued as former Hawk Viktor Stalberg scored (17:20) off a wrist shot to increase Nashville’s lead to 2-0.
The home team capped off the first period with a power play goal from Wilson, his second of the game (19:33) to put Nashville up as much as it would be in the game, 3-0 after one period.
Niklas Hjalmarsson kicked off the comeback when the defenseman snapped home Chicago’s first goal of the playoffs (1:43). The Hawks soon got into the power play and Patrick Sharp made the Preds pay at 8:32 with assists from Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa and all of a sudden the Hawks were only down 3-2 midway through the second.
Back on the power play later in the second, the Hawks took advantage as Jonathan Toews got into the action with a score at 13:50 off a wrist shot to tie the game at 3-3 and finally give the Hawks some room for error. It was like a clean slate going into the third, which saw the teams trade good scoring chances but at this point the goalies took their turn at center stage.
Nashville’s Pekka Rinne was continually tested from the second period on and his loss was low on shame potential. Rinne stopped 38 of 42 shots along with a .905 save percentage.
CHI — Going 2 for 6 on the power play
CHI — Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson each with 4 blocked shots
CHI — Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane each notched 2 assists
NSH — 54-42 shots on goal advantage
NSH — 54-34 in faceoff wins
CHI — Corey Crawford giving up 3 first period goals
CHI — Brandon Saad, Brad Richards and Kris Versteeg combining for 0 points
NSH — Mike Fisher leaving the game with an injury following the second period
Game Puck — Game 1
To Scott Darling for stopping all 42 shots he saw and collecting his first-ever playoff victory in his first-ever playoff game.
Looking At Game 2
The Hawks accomplished that oh-so important series objective of winning on the road in Game 1 and now the Predators are in a must-win situation for Game 2 Friday night.
A big question for the Hawks in the aftermath of Corey Crawford’s Game 1 pulling was whether or not he’d be trusted by Joel Quenneville to start Game 2. Answer: Coach Q does trust him. With Crawford starting, a potentially stellar performance will be assumed as he will be on a short leash. Don’t expect the debate to die down regarding whether or not Scott Darling should be in goal should anything outside of Crow domination develops in the next game.
After the Predators’ hot start they can’t feel too good about themselves after not being able to close the deal and with the Hawks’ confidence at a high level surely, Nashville must find a way to steal momentum and tie this series before it stands to get ugly.
The Road Ahead (Series Schedule)
Game 3: Predators at Hawks, Sunday, April 19 (2 p.m., NBC)
Game 4: Predators at Hawks, Tuesday, April 21 (8:30 p.m., CSN-Chicago)
*-Game 5: Hawks at Predators, Thursday, April 23 (TBD, CSN-Chicago)
*-Game 6: Predators at Hawks, Saturday, April 25 (TBD, NBC)
*-Game 7: Hawks at Predators, Monday, April 27 (TBD, CSN-Chicago)
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