Oduya doesn't give up on the puck, providing enough pressure to give Shaw the chance to finish a hard check, allwoing Oduya to grab the puck, give a quick look up ice and send a Hail-Mary pass to a streaking Stalberg, who grabs the puck perfectly. Bickell is streaking up the other side creating a 2-on-1, in which Stalberg makes the perfect pass, and Bickell finishes the Wilds hopes of an upset in game 1 perfectly. The perfect play to finish a game.
It didn't start so perfectly for the Hawks though. In fact, with Crawford giving up a really sad goal, and a sloppy first period, things were not looking as amazing as most would have thought. It's not like I was in panic mode or anything, and neither were the Hawks (which shows maturity), but it seemed like that was the best chance Minnie would get at a win in this series. Everything was going very well from their point of view heading into the 2nd. The Hawks didn't rack up points after that, but they sure outplayed the Wild.
The sudden injury to Backstrom in warmups, and sudden start for Harding looked like a blessing to the Hawks, and Harding then proved otherwise. It was the goaltender who hadn't played a full game in 32 games or so that had the best performance of any player on the ice.
Although Crow started on a terrible note, he finished with avengence, making 26 saves and a few of them beyond big. Large props to Crow for pulling out some huge saves following a shaky start, this was huge.
Not only were the Hawks shaky out of the gate, by shaky I mean missing and making bad passes, but the Wild seemed to be playing the exact game they had set out to do. The trap was in full effect, 3 D-men back and proving effective for the far outmatched Wild. Not a single one of Minnesota's line's are a fair match to the players they are facing. They need to play a very smart, tough, and defensively strong game. They did very well throughout, and especially early when the Hawks were trying to find their stride. The Hawks will be more ready for this in game 2.
- Rozsival had the most minutes of any player! Holy Shocker Batman! This is made more shocking by the few early mistakes Rozsi made, but he did end up playing some very solid and physical hockey, leading the charge in the hits department.
- The Hawks out hit the Wild! Another shocker. Let the record stand that the Hawks did not exactly play their best game. I am glad they were physical, but worry that it aided the Wild more in the end, as it is Minnesota's biggest goal to make sure the Hawks are not allowed to play their game. Some of this was a result to the defensive play of the Wild, keeping play along the boards.
- Eventually, the Hawks got their act together, and even generated a power-play tally. It wasn't looking good, and I have to say a few opportunities were missed because Hossa is a lefty playing the left point (remember that one-timer option?). A streaking Kane, with a very nifty pass to said #81 put the Hawks on the board though, and established the majority of control for the remainder of the game. Not that the Wild weren't taking advantage of their fewer opportunities.
- Duncan Keith had a rough game, and Seabrook wasn't as noticeable as I would like for the playoffs. This might have a hand in why Rozsi played so many minutes. Oduya also had a very strong game, earning 2nd in minutes.
- Speaking of minutes, they had just about the exact distribution we had hoped for. Good job Q.
- The biggest threat on the ice was obviously the Toews line. Parise and Koivu did a pretty good job getting in their way, but you get the sense that it will break soon. Saad was as tough as ever, but a little to sloppy for my blood.
- My favorite line to watch was the 3rd, and I would go out on a limb to say that Stals had the best all around game (if not Shaw). If he was a little smarter and confident with the puck, he most likely puts the Hawks up in that 3rd period. Shaw had 7 hits, and none were better than his 7th (he left his feet a little). Bickell with the game winner, and with a productive 3rd line like this, the Hawks are in great position.
- Besides never really hitting their stride, we saw a lot of what we would have hoped to see from every player in a Hawks uniform, minus Keith. You get the sense that this was the warmup game. The 4th line was especially strong.
The pressure was on the Hawks last night. Now it shifts to the Wild, as falling behind 2-0 would be fairly catastrophic for them, especially against a team like the Hawks. Falling behind like that might force them out of their game-plan, which will open the game up and favor the Hawks in big ways.
When you look at the minutes Suter skated, a whopping 41+ minutes, the extra day off probably favors them the most, but it also speaks to the difficulty he might have in 3 more games or so. If I were Q, I would take a little of Toews' minutes back, because a rested Toews might end up tearing apart an exhausted Suter.
The Wild played a great game from their perspective, and it still wasn't enough. This will be a hard pill for them to swallow. Let's see how they react in game 2.
I see good things looking into the future.