Not the most exciting game of these playoffs so far, for sure (that distinction could go to about five of the Western Conference Finals games), but a very exiting last seven or so minutes as the Hawks began to use their superior depth and experience to steal game one.
Here are a few of my thoughts after the Blackhawks took Game 1 2-1 in Tampa Bay.
CRAWFORD WAS CRAMAZING
With 22 saves on 23 shots (more on the one that went in in a bit), Crawford is the sole reason this game wasn’t out of hand in favor of Tampa early.
The Blackhawks had hardly any puck possession in the first period, were soundly outshot early, and the scoring chances in the first period were hugely in the Lightning’s favor,
although that changed as the game went on.
With the huge scoring chance advantage and puck possession advantage, without the stellar play of Crawford, this could have been over early.
And late in the game, Ryan Callahan for Tampa had a breakaway chance that could have put Tampa Bay up 2-0 over halfway through the 3rd, but coming way out of his net, Crawford made the save, which you can see here.
After that save, the game changed, but Crawford made sure that the Hawks held the lead once they got it.
TEUVOTIME IS NOW
There has been a huge amount of attention given to the first two lines for the Lightning, the Stamkos line that came through big in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Triplets line led by Tyler Johnson who leads the NHL Playoffs in scoring.
However, in this game, it was the fourth line and third line that came through for the Hawks while the top two lines for each team were relatively silent.
Teuvo Teravainen, the 20 year old rookie for the Blackhawks, was out there with Kruger and Shaw, who (along with Desjardins) are fourth liners, when Keith (who I think is going to win the Conn Smythe, the playoff MVP) made a great play to get the puck to Teravainen who put the puck through the traffic and past Bishop who didn’t see it at all. (You can watch the play here).
Less than two minutes later, Teravainen makes a great steal and gets the puck to Vermette in front of the net. (Watch it here).
The Hawks needed both those great Teravainen plays and goals because before that, it was 1-0 Lightning, and that goal was a beauty.
KILLORN KILLED IT
Alex Killorn had one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen. A backhand redirect of the puck in midair was the first (and only) goal for the Lightning in game one.
Crawford didn’t have a prayer of stopping this, as it appeared that it was destined to go far wide of the net. It would have if not for the amazing hand-eye coordination of Killorn.
You can see this goal here.
One of the best goals in Stanley Cup history, but a 1-0 lead wasn’t enough to beat the Mighty, Mighty Blackhawks.
DID TAMPA LOSE IT OR CHICAGO WIN IT?
Which brings us to the final point I have after Game one. Many people, including the Lightning players themselves, are blaming Tampa Bay’s taking the foot off of the gas towards the end of the game for the Blackhawks’ ability to get back in this game.
However, I think we need to give more credit to the Blackhawks. They were completely unable to win puck battles early. The Lightning opened the game winning the great majority of the face-offs. However, after the first period, both of those things began to shift.
I don’t think that the Lightning were letting up so much as the Blackhawks were finally able to turn things on themselves. The Hawks dominated face-offs as the game went on and began to win puck battles. Every time there was a loose puck as the game went on, the Blackhawks managed to get it on their stick, sometimes even when the puck wasn’t loose as Teuvo did on the game winning goal.
Not enough credit is being given to the Hawks for how the end of the game went.
If the Lightning think that they just need to do something different at the end of the game, rather than recognizing that the superior depth and experience of the Blackhawks played a huge role in the end of this game, this series could be over sooner than most people thought possible.
We’ll find out Saturday. Game 2 is scheduled for 7:15 EST on Sat evening. I think it is a must win for the Lightning. If the Blackhawks are headed back to Chicago up 2 games to none, this series will be over.