Blackhawks take game 1 vs the Red Wings in WSF series
There was a feeling in the building that the first round series vs. the Wild lacked. It was an energy that was nearly palatable, fueled by the rivalry that is the deepest in the NHL: tonight's game marked the 800th between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings, the most between any two teams in the league.
The two teams looked near-equal in the first. Chicago looked like they were getting their game feet back under themselves after nearly a week off; while Detroit was still fresh off their series vs. Anaheim. Shots on goal were nearly even; the Blackhawks gave the Red Wings two power plays while only gaining one of their own; and the two teams got out of the period tied at 1-1 on goals by Marian Hossa (CHI) and Damien Brunner (DET).
While Chicago swept the Red Wings in the regular season, more than one game between them went to overtime, and only one game could be called a blowout. Detroit may not be the same team they were with Nick Lidstrom, but Mike Babcock is still behind the bench, and a game between these two teams is like high-speed chess.
The Red Wings survived a 17-5 SOG onslaught thanks to the efforts of Jimmy Howard. If Detroit isn't at their strongest, then they at least have Howard in net; he is a goalie who can steal games for his team.
Unfortunately for Howard, Wednesday night's game wasn't going to be one of those games.
Johnny Oduya broke the tie at 8:02 in the third, putting one in for Chicago. Marcus Kruger made it 3-1 a few minutes later. The Blackhawks outshot Detroit 19-9 in the final frame. Their 4th and final goal was an empty-netter, notched by Patrick Sharp after holding off Detroit's defenders.
Chicago's Corey Crawford is among the goalie leaders in the post-season, with tonight's performance giving him a 5-0-1 record, 1.27 GAA, and .950 sv%.
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The Blackhawks and Red Wings will face off again this Saturday at noon CDT at the United Center for game 2 of the series; it can be seen on NBC, CBC, and RDS; and can be heard on FM 97.9 in the Chicago area (or via WGN's phone app).
Three stars: 1) Patrick Sharp - CHI; 2) Marian Hossa - CHI; 3) Johnny Oduya - CHI