Blackhawks take 1-0 lead in Western Semifinals vs Wild

One of these days, the Chicago Blackhawks will play the level of hockey they're capable of for a full sixty minutes, and the other team will end up looking silly.

Tonight wasn't one of those nights, but the Blackhawks still came away with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of the Western Semifinals vs. the Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks scored their first two goals on the power play. Bryan Bickell tipped a Brent Seabrook blast to put Chicago on the board first, late in the first.

After a strong first, the Blackhawks let the Wild take over in the second. Minnesota not only limited Chicago to a mere 3 SOG, but they peppered Corey Crawford with 17. Despite that, the Blackhawks extended their lead to 2-0 on a Marian Hossa goal off a lovely Brandon Saad (a.k.a. Hossa-Jr.-in-training) pass.

Clayton Stoner was a thorn in Chicago's side all game long, racking up six hits for the Wild, including the first period one that sent Andrew Shaw off the ice. Shaw did not return for the rest of the game and was listed post-game as "day to day" with a "lower body" injury by coach Joel Quenneville.

The Wild got on the board early in the second, but it wasn't really from their own effort. Corey Crawford gave up a rebound, and Johnny Oduya managed to knock it into the Blackhawks' own goal off his skates while trying to clear it. Stoner was credited with the goal (2-1).

Brandon Bollig turned over the puck in the neutral zone, and Kyle Brodziak tied up the game 2-2 as the Wild continued to keep the pressure in Chicago's end.

During the game broadcast, broadcaster Brian Engblom stated that Chicago captain Jonathan Toews kept yelling at his teammates to "wake up!" when the Wild was dominating play in the middle frame. The Wild's second goal of the night apparently had the desired effect, as the Blackhawks turned their gears back on.

And then Patrick Kane happened.

First, he took at feed from Patrick Sharp and turned it into a ridiculous backhand highlight-reel-worthy goal, giving the Blackhawks the 3-2 lead barely 90 seconds after Brodziak had tied things up.

It would take another 8:25, but Kane would scored his second of the night - this one a cross-ice pass by Sharp which was deflected by Ben Smith towards the net, which Kane easily knocked into the wide-open net behind Bryzgalov to make it 4-2.

Yeo pulled Bryzgalov with just under three minutes left on the game clock, and it didn't take long for Bryan Bickell to score an empty-net game to salt the game away, 5-2.

If the Wild had Darcy Kuemper or Josh Harding healthy for goal in this series, the games might have a different feel.

But who they have is Ilya Bryzgalov. Bryzgalov, whose playoff stats have progressively gotten worse ever since his career playoff high in 2005-06 with the Ducks - with the exception of one very small uptick in 2011-12 behind the Flyers. In 2006, he went .944 sv% and 1.46 GAA; his career average is a mediocre .903 sv% and 2.91 GAA. His current post-season, in 4 games played, is an abysmal .821 sv% and 4.16 GAA.

Kuemper isn't expected to be available soon after an injury suffered in Game 7 on Wednesday night. Harding is unlikely as well; Yeo was quoted as saying it would be "an extreme long shot" to see him in this series unless the situation was "an absolute emergency" or a "desperate situation".

After the game, Yeo commented on his team, stating, "We did some good things, but we’re not going to sit around and feel good about those things." He also declared, "We’re not happy with our game tonight. I felt we didn’t have everybody at the level we needed to be at. So we’ll rectify that."

Three stars:
1) Patrick Kane - CHI
2) Marian Hossa - CHI
3) Bryan Bickell - CHI

Game 2 will be at the United Center on Sunday, May 4 at 2pm CDT; you can view it on NBC, RDS, and TSN - radio via WGN 720 AM in Chicago.

 

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