The Chicago Blackhawks survived a second-period push by the Los Angeles Kings to take the first game in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at the United Center. The Kings, who had to play less than 48 hours earlier, put up a big fight, making the Blackhawks’ job tough. But if this ends up being the long and difficult series a lot of pundits say this will be, then it was no surprise.
The Blackhawks got on the board first on a Power Play in the first period. Nick Leddy fired a shot from the point that was deflected by Brandon Saad in front of Jonathan Quick. In the second period, the Kings pushed a little more, but the Hawks seemed to get a goal when Jonathan Toews got the puck in the net while colliding with Quick. But a controversial replay resulted in a disallowed goal. Just 73 seconds later, the Kings got the equalizer on a Tyler Toffoli tip-in.
But just over 7 minutes later, the Hawks regained the lead. Duncan Keith fired a shot from the point that took a couple of very fortunate bounces to get past Quick. The Hawks finished the scoring in the third when Jonathan Toews, after a fantastic bang-bang passing play, got one past Quick that was never in doubt. The Hawks survived a late Kings barrage to preserve the 3-1 win.
Given how evenly matched both teams are, there are few surprises about the game itself and the outcome. The Kings, despite the obvious fatigue factor, did not go away easily. The Hawks defense did a fantastic job, especially Corey Crawford. It seems that every game he plays he’s trying to prove his doubters wrong. His 25-save performance helped guarantee the victory. There’s also the goal from Keith, the first Hawks goal scored by a defenseman since the first round.
Still, the Kings’ dominance of the second period was pretty concerning, even without Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik producing as they usually do.
But then there was that disallowed goal. Toews looked as though he’d pushed the puck past Quick, but an explanation of the review stated that the puck had deflected off of Slava Voynov‘s skate before Toews crashed into Quick and the puck went in the net. The call was “goaltender interference”. Unfortunately, this was a bad call. The decision on the ice was a “good goal”, which should have stood.
But, the Hawks did recover from this bad call and ended up beating the Kings. But the Hawks should not get complacent. The Kings are a very good team and unlike last year, they will not have back-to-back days where they have to play. The two teams play again on Wednesday and the Hawks will look to extend their unbeaten streak on home ice in the playoffs.