Well, that certainly didn’t go the way we all expected, did it?
After closing out Nashville in rather dominant fashion and sweeping through Minnesota in Round 2, the Chicago Blackhawks lost their first game since April 23 in a 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of their Western Conference Final matchup.
But this is a 7-game series, and this loss only counts once, and it comes on the road, where the Hawks will have at least two more chances to win a game and flip the home-ice advantage in their favor.
There’s a part of me that feels the need to refer to my PSA from Game 1 of the Nashville series, cautioning people to refrain from any unnecessary overreactions to a small sample of a much bigger series.
And that’s because, after watching Game 1, I’m even less convinced that the Ducks can hang with the Hawks for a 7-game series.
Chicago’s speed gave Anaheim’s defense fits in this game, as the Blackhawks racked up lengthy possession streaks in the Ducks’ zone at 30 or 45 seconds at a time. It wasn’t just the top line of Saad-Toews-Hossa, either. The Richards, Vermette and Kruger lines all had their fair of chances. Overall, they pelted Anaheim goalie Frederik Andersen with 33 shots, but he turned away 32 of them.
Two of Anaheim’s three goals came soon after misplays by the Chicago defense. David Rundblad turned the puck over deep in his own zone, then got caught wandering a bit, and Nate Thompson cashed in for Anaheim’s second goal of the night. Then Duncan Keith gambled late in the third period, lost, and the Ducks ended up getting the third goal that put the game out of reach.
None of these things are beyond repair, though. Rundblad was playing in his first game in over a month, so a few mistakes were to be expected. Pairing him with Keith gives the Hawks a protective blanket over some—but certainly not all—of any errors from Rundblad. Keith’s own mistake was just a symptom of the Hawks late deficit than an indication of Keith being a liability.
No, this game had a lot of what many people around Chicago expected: the Blackhawks’ team speed at forward was all over Anaheim’s average defensemen for much of the game, including a first period that saw the Hawks outshoot the hosts 16-7.
If Anaheim is going to need a save percentage of .970 to beat the Hawks in this series ….
Good luck with that.