It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win. The Blackhawks and Wild needed overtime to decide the outcome of Game 1, and Bryan Bickell ended up scoring the big goal to win it for the Hawks by a score of 2-1. Many people, myself included, predicted that this would end up being a quick series (and it still may be), but I did not expect the Blackhawks to look so lethargic in Game 1. At times, it looked like they were skating in mud.
Maybe it was a case of the Blackhawks shaking off some rust, or maybe it was them trying to play through some playoff jitters. Whatever the case may have been, they simply did not look good for the first 2 periods of last night’s game. Their passes were off the mark, they were only getting one shot per possession, and they rarely sustained any pressure on the Minnesota defense. It was one of the sloppiest games that the Hawks have played all year.
Corey Crawford did not help anyone feel comfortable about last night’s game when he allowed a very soft goal to Cal Clutterbuck early in the first period. It was the exact type of soft goal that we got too used to seeing in last year’s playoffs. To Corey’s credit, however, he bounced back and played a great game from then on and did not allow another goal.
Marian Hossa scored on the powerplay in the second period to tie the game at 1 apiece after a beautiful feed from Patrick Kane. This had to be big for the Blackhawks’ confidence to get a powerplay goal right off the bat in the playoffs. After all, it’s not a secret that their powerplay was rather bad this season.
Late in overtime, an unbelievable bank-pass high off the glass from Johnny Oduya to Viktor Stalberg created a 2-on-1 between Stalberg and Bickell. Stalberg retrieved the pass, pulled up, and hit Bickell with a perfect pass to give him a 10-foot breakaway on Josh Harding. Bickell was able to slide the puck through Harding’s five hole to win the game and send the U.C. into a frenzy.
Many analysts on the NHL Network brought up the fact that the depth of the Blackhawks is what will win them series’ in the postseason. That is exactly how they won Game 1, with the third line getting the OT goal.
So, what to take away from Game 1:
- Josh Harding played very well in Niklas Backstrom’s absence after not starting a game since Jan. 30. Could he be the Wild’s starter the rest of the way?
- Ryan Suter played 41 minutes. He isn’t going to have anything left in the tank by Game 3 if that trend continues, and he’s the Wild’s only hope on the blue line.
- Corey Crawford looked very good and came up with some huge saves late in the game and overtime.
- This may have been the best effort that the Wild could have possibly given, yet they still couldn’t come away with a victory.
- If you’re the Blackhawks, you have to feel confident knowing that you didn’t play well, the Wild did play well, and you still won.
I would expect to see a much different Blackhawks team come Game 2 on Friday night. The Wild are going to need to duplicate the way they played in Game 1, or else they’re going to have big problem on their hands.