Observations From Section 321 : And Away We Go

Bryan Bickell seals the Game 1 victory, over the Wild, with his overtime goal.

One down, 15 to go, that's the bottom line. Last night was a perfect example of the difference between the regular season and the playoffs. First and foremost, what an effort by Josh Harding last night. It is nearly impossible to not root for this kid after all he has been through. He had to make his first start since Jan 30th after Niklas Backstrom suffered an injury during the pregame skate. All Harding did was make 35 saves and gave his team a chance to pull the Game 1 upset. Credit also needs to be given to Wild head coach Mike Yeo, who came up with a great game plan to clog the neutral zone and limit the Hawks speed through center ice. The plan worked for the majority of the game, which caused numerous offside calls and frustration. Minnesota couldn't keep it up the entire game and neutral ice started to open up in the 3rd period and overtime. The Wild played the exact game the needed to the win. The Hawks did not even come close to playing their best and still grabbed the series lead. That should make everyone feel pretty good going forward. Q now has two days to come up a plan to counteract Yeo's attack from Game 1, which I am sure he will.

Corey Crawford apparently wanted to get his soft goals out of the way early, and by early I mean the first shot he saw of the series. And of course it had to be the most annoying Minnesota player, Cal Clutterbuck, who opened the scoring 4:48. Clutterbuck showed some good skating ability as he gained the zone and snapped a wrist shot from the top of the left circle. Crow said the he "saw the release. I just kind of lost the puck halfway." Not the way you want your goalie to start a playoff series, but Crawford was money after this point. Clayton Stoner picked up the lone assist on Clutterbuck's 1st career playoff goal.

The Blackhawks were able to tie the game up, with a power play goal, at 2:06 of the 2nd period. That's right, I said a power play goal. As the final seconds ticked off a Zach Parise goaltender interference call, Patrick Kane did what he's been doing all year; creating goals. Kane made a nice backhand pass, through three Wild defenders, right on the tape of Marian Hossa's stick. Hoss quickly flicked a wrist shot past Harding for his 37th career playoff goal and 6th with the Hawks.

The game remained tied throughout the remainder of regulation. Both teams had some chances, but Harding and Crawford rose to the challenge to force the game into overtime. Johnny Oduya, who was called for high sticking at earlier in OT, had his moment of redemption for the game winning goal. Oduya made a great pass, from below the faceoff circle, high off the glass, over Ryan Suter's outstretched glove, to Viktor Stalberg outside the Wild's zone. Stalberg showed great patience by waiting for Bryan Bickell to catch up to the play. Bickell went backhand/forehand and through the 5 hole for the clincher. The goal was Bickell's 5th career playoff goal and second in OT. Nobody expected the Hawks to blow out the Wild every game. They found a way to win a tough and gritty playoff game. If the Blackhawks play better on Friday than they did last night, I fully expect a 2-0 series lead heading to St. Paul.

* Corey Crawford made all of us uneasy giving up the soft goal to Cutterbuck but played great for the remainder of the game. He made two big saves on Kyle Brodziak, who had a 2 on 1 in the final minute of the 1st period. He also made a huge pad save on Zach Parise, just a couple of minutes before Bickell scored the game winner. A bad goal early used to spell doom for Crow, but this season he has done a nice job rebounding from the softies. Last night was no exception.

* We all remember how the power play cost the Hawks the series against Phoenix last season. Granted, the power play wasn't fantastic last night, but getting on the score sheet is huge. Special teams goals go a long way in the post season.

* It looks like Mike Yeo has figured out a way to help Craig Liepold avoid paying off Ryan Suter's entire contract; skate him to death. Suter played a ridiculous 41:08 last night, meaning he was on the ice for roughly 54% of the game. At this rate, Suter will be in a body bag midway through the 3rd period of Game 3. Oh, and he was on the ice for both Hawks goals, just sayin'.

* Michal Rozsival played the exact type of game Stan Bowman signed him for back in the summer. He was fantastic last night, much like he was last post season as a member of the Coyotes. He lead the team in ice time with 27:11. He was a solid presence on the penalty kill, dished out 6 hits and blocked 2 shots.

* The Blackhawks actually outhit the Wild 40 to 36. I know this is important to some of you, but they definitely brought the physicality with them into the playoffs. Andrew Shaw lead the team with 7, Rozsival had 6, and Patrick Sharp had 4.

* I really don't like Cal Clutterbuck and it has nothing to do with him scoring either. In overtime, he decided to shoulder roll on a defenseless Patrick Sharp who was laying on the ice, just before the whistle was blown. I wouldn't call Clutterbuck a dirty player by any means, he is just a pain in the ass. By the end of the series, Hawks fans will have a new villain for next season.

* Watching the play of our 3rd and 4th lines last night make me very hopeful for a deep run this spring. Not many teams will be able to match the Hawks depth night in and night out.

* The Corsi numbers below should also make you feel pretty good about the rest of the series.

Blackhawks Corsi Numbers

Player Pos ES TOI Total Shots For Total Shots Against Corsi Net Zone Starts Adjusted Corsi
Duncan Keith D 19:11 19 9 +10 -1 +10
Niklas Hjalmarsson D 19:26 17 7 +10 -1 +10
Brent Seabrook D 21:11 21 13 +8 +3 +7
Nick Leddy D 21:08 19 10 +9 +3 +8
Patrick Sharp R 17:40 13 5 +8 +3 +7
Marcus Kruger C 9:10 10 4 +6 -1 +6
Jonathan Toews C 20:10 18 10 +8 0 +8
Brandon Saad L 18:48 16 8 +8 +2 +7
Viktor Stalberg L 17:59 15 14 +1 +1 +1
Michal Handzus C 19:46 13 8 +5 +3 +4
Johnny Oduya D 23:38 19 14 +5 +2 +4
Bryan Bickell L 16:17 14 15 -1 +1 -1
Michal Rozsival D 24:38 19 15 +4 +4 +2
Brandon Bollig L 7:38 10 3 +7 0 +7
Andrew Shaw C 16:53 17 14 +3 +2 +2
Michael Frolik R 8:03 10 4 +6 0 +6
Marian Hossa R 19:46 19 9 +10 +1 +10
Patrick Kane R 19:46 16 6 +10 +3 +9

Wild Corsi Numbers

Player Pos ES TOI Total Shots For Total Shots Against Corsi Net Zone Starts Adjusted Corsi
Clayton Stoner D 8:18 3 4 -1 -1 -1
Marco Scandella D 21:12 11 18 -7 -3 -6
Matt Cullen C 16:35 10 13 -3 -1 -3
Mikko Koivu C 19:54 7 15 -8 +3 -9
Devin Setoguchi R 16:05 9 14 -5 -1 -5
Zach Parise L 20:00 7 17 -10 +3 -11
Jason Zucker L 17:29 9 18 -9 0 -9
Torrey Mitchell C 12:02 8 12 -4 -2 -3
Ryan Suter D 32:28 18 30 -12 -1 -12
Kyle Brodziak C 16:42 7 19 -12 -5 -10
Cal Clutterbuck R 15:10 7 14 -7 -5 -5
Jonas Brodin D 28:45 20 26 -6 -1 -6
Mike Rupp C 11:23 9 12 -3 -2 -2
Zenon Konopka C 11:54 10 10 0 -2 +1
Jared Spurgeon D 20:59 7 21 -14 -2 -13
Charlie Coyle C 20:33 9 16 -7 +2 -8
Tom Gilbert D 17:11 9 15 -6 -2 -5
Pierre-Marc Bouchard C 14:28 8 11 -3 -5 -1