The Chicago Blackhawks came up short in their quest to continue their playoff winning streak, aiming to steal Game 1 on the road against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday afternoon. While the 4-1 loss wasn't nearly as bad as the scoreboard may have indicated that it was, there are certainly some important takeaways for the Hawks as they move forward and try to grab a game on the road, which will be a requirement in these Western Conference Finals.
Let's break this down a bit:
Defensive Woes (Read: Rundblad, David).
The blue line group has been a focal point for this team for much of the year, much of the time for all the wrong reasons. What should have been a pretty solid defensive corps has served as more of a defensive corpse than anything. It's not a particularly deep group, which leaves the Hawks' top guys forced to spend time with guys like David Rundblad, who was a complete and total disaster on Sunday. Who would've thought we would all miss Michal Rozsival?
While Rozsival hasn't been particularly good at any point this season, though he was having an okay playoff season before his injury, we got a glimpse of why he actually plays as much as he does. Rundblad was on the ice for the first two Ducks goals, the second of which he failed to clear the puck, playing it as passively as possible, opening up the door for the Anaheim opportunity that led to the 2-0 lead. The book on Rundblad has always been decent upside as an offensive defenseman, but struggles in his own end. Sure, he can move the puck a bit and has a nice shot, but this really doesn't outweigh what a complete and utter disaster he is in the defensive zone.
Does that mean we'll see someone like Kyle Cumiskey? Perhaps. But while we're imagining that any other option couldn't be worse there's probably a reason that Cumiskey hasn't been in the lineup since Feb. 27.
In addition to the failures of Rundblad, the play of the blue line was interesting. It was certainly largely at fault for the loss. But it was interesting to see how Anaheim defended its goaltender against how the Hawks protected Corey Crawford. When Frederik Andersen made a save, he had at least three or four guys around him every time, with a tight perimeter. They protected him. Crawford's lucky if he gets one or two. Not only would it be nice to see the Hawks' blue liners adopt this sort of practice, but the forward group needs to consistently crash the net like they did in the first period on Sunday against Andersen and his band of merry men in front of him.
The Hawks are going to score goals. Probably a lot of them.
Up front, though, there were a lot of things to like. The Blackhawks dominated the first period, with 16 shots, but were unable to put anything past Andersen, with a lot of that being due to what I just mentioned. He made a couple of strong saves, including a big stick save on Patrick Kane, but it'd be far-fetched to call this one a "goalie win" for the Ducks. As such, there were a lot of things to like.
Of course, the only time the Hawks found the back of the net was off of an absurdly good play by Brad Richards, which came on an unassisted steal of the puck from Francois Beauchemin. But it wasn't as if they didn't have their opportunities. Patrick Kane only had one shot, but had a few nice looks. Same goes for Teuvo Teravainen. Marian Hossa was all over the place. The Ducks may not have an answer for him as the series wears on.
So how do they turn it into goals? They did a lot of things well on Sunday. Crashing the net, which was a theme in the first 30 minutes or so, led to some of their best chances, especially against that wall in front of Andersen. Simplicity also played, as it was when they got frustrated and tried to force things that weren't there that the Ducks made them pay, which resulted in that third goal. Long story short: the Blackhawks are too deep on offense for the Ducks to consistently contain. They're going to score goals, they just can't get frustrated when they don't do so right away.
The power play is still a disaster.
The Blackhawks had three power play opportunities for the game and didn't really appear to come anywhere near scoring on any of them. Hell, they couldn't even set anything up for the most part, with the Ducks seeing shorthanded opportunities almost as soon as the first man advantage had begun in the opening frame.
"Everything" was the answer that media received when Blackhawks players were asked what they needed to do better when on the man advantage moving forward. That's about as close to the truth as you'll get. Zone entries have been an issue throughout the season, and probably even before that. There's far too much dump and chase that is immediately costing them possession in the offensive zone. They did a decent enough job of keeping the puck in the zone, but they couldn't get the shots. That's usually a key when you have the puck in the offensive zone, is to direct the puck toward the opposing net.
We've seen failed power plays shift momentum against the Hawks far too many times this season, when they should be doing the direct opposite. The Ducks had the second most shorthanded goals in the league during the regular season. They like to be aggressive. This is something that the Blackhawks need to be conscious of, but it's also something they could use to their advantage if they play it right.
Plenty will be in panic mode after a Game 1 loss to the Western Conference's top seed, but we saw the Hawks lose far more concerning games to Nashville in these playoffs. They played a decent enough game that the result could have been very different if they were able to cash in early. As a result, expect them to come out firing in Game 2, as they take another crack in trying to get that all-important road win in Game 2 against the Ducks.
Randy Holt is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RandallPnkFloyd.