By Jon Fromi
The Chicago Blackhawks opened the Western Conference finals Saturday afternoon with a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. A pair of second period goals by Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa provided the offense to give Chicago a 1-0 series lead.
The Blackhawks came out on the offensive, generating the first five shots of the contest. In fact, Chicago would outshoot the Kings 17-2 in the opening period. However, the only one of those shots that mattered came off the stick of Justin Williams.
Corey Crawford attempted to send a loose puck behind the boards with just under six minutes to play in the first period. Brad Richardson prevented this from happening and the puck floated to the front of the net. Dave Bolland tried to clear the crease but the puck struck Williams’ stick and into the net. Despite the lack of scoring chances, Los Angeles skated to the locker room with a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks tied the game in the 13th minute of the second period. Patrick Sharp brought the puck into the Kings’ zone and dropped a pass back to Johnny Oduya at the blue line. Oduya skated to the top of the left circle and shot. The attempt was blocked by Quick only to be knocked home by Sharp at the 12:29 mark.
Dustin Penner elbowed Niklas Hjalmarsson to give the ‘Hawks the power play a moment later. Several good chances followed, though Chicago did not score. At even strength in the 17th minute, the ‘Hawks pressure on Quick resulted in their taking the lead.
Hossa nearly drove home a stuff attempt at the right post. The puck came out to Duncan Keith, who sent a shot to the net from the blue line. Hossa was in front with a timely redirect past Quick. With 3:38 left in the second period, Chicago had its first lead of the afternoon. Going into the second intermission, it was a 2-1 advantage in favor of the Blackhawks.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter scrambled his lines in the final period in an attempt to create some more offense. The Kings began the third frame with a good opportunity that was blocked by Keith.
Dustin Brown took the puck from Michael Frolik as he was attempting to skate out of the ‘Hawks zone. Nick Leddy was called for tripping as Brown started for the net. Los Angeles threatened early with the man advantage but the infraction was killed off.
Chicago had a nice 2-on-1 opportunity created by Jonathan Toews getting the puck to Bryan Bickell on the move into the Kings zone. Quick made the save on Bickell’s shot and the score remained 2-1 heading into the fifteenth minute, when the ‘Hawks took their timeout.
As the minutes ticked away, Chicago kept the action in the Los Angeles side of the ice with strong play from the lower lines. Mike Richards brought the puck behind the ‘Hawks net but was separated from it by a huge check by Bolland. Jeff Carter was called for tripping on the other end of the ice. Chicago ended the contest on the power play and ran out the clock for the win.
-Mike Richards took a large part of Bolland’s check on the chin. He looked very woozy, laboring off the ice following the hit. With Game 2 coming up Sunday, his status could well be in doubt.
-I guess Bolland could wind up in the same boat if someone up in Toronto decides that discipline is required. I’m sure the league will look at the hit from a variety of angles and speeds. From the replay I’ve watched several times, Bolland makes contact with his back. His elbow comes up but doesn’t appear to make contact with Richards.
-Another great game from Crawford, though he only saw 22 shots.
-A little role reversal was in play in that Sutter was the guy throwing together an assortment of line combos while Joel Quenneville just let his four lines roll.
-Not long to wait for Game 2. The puck drops Sunday night.