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NHL Anaheim Ducks

Blackhawks Force Overtime, But Drop Game 1 Against Phoenix Coyotes

Just when it looked like the Chicago Blackhawks were dead in the water, they nearly pulled it off.

With 14 seconds left in regulation, Brent Seabrook found the back of the net to even the score at 2-2 and force overtime in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes.

It was a game that began with the return of Jonathan Toews. And he put an exclamation point on that return, scoring within minutes of the opening puck drop. That goal stood as the lone goal in the first, before an awful second period cost the Hawks that lead. Toews also added an assist on Seabs’ goal.

Despite its label as a ‘thriller’, which it was, this game will go down as one that easily could have gone the other way, had the Blackhawks just avoided some stupid mistakes and terrible sequences.

Luckily, all of the mistakes that the Hawks made that cost them the game are correctable. They had issues getting the puck out of the defensive zone all night. And it cost them that first goal, on a shift where clearing the puck out of the zone was impossible. It was an issue all night, though, and when they did get it out, it ended as an icing almost everytime, particularly in the overtime frame.

The physicality of this team will also have to improve, as the Coyotes made it clear that they are going to hit, or slash, the Hawks right in the mouth at every opportunity. And faceoffs. And getting in Mike Smith‘s face. Those speak for themselves.

The one thing that might not be fixable at this point is the power play. The Hawks spent more time dawdling in their own zone when they were on the man advantage than James Neal does with his hair every day. It was a disaster.

But as easily as it is to point out the mistakes that this team made, or the things that they didn’t do right, there’s one big positive to pull: this Coyotes team is very beatable.

The Blackhawks played a miserable second period, and couldn’t find consistency through plenty of the rest. Yet, it still took overtime for them to barely get by these Hawks. If Corey Crawford is as splendid as he was, and Marian Hossa decides to show up for a game, there’s no reason that the Hawks shouldn’t walk away with a win in this series. They’ll need to steal one in Phoenix, though, and they’ll have a chance on Saturday.

Of course, that also means they’ll have to lock Sean O’Donnell in the press box, and get him as far away from the ice as possible.