CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks, from coach Joel Quenneville on down, repeatedly expressed disappointment with their intensity throughout their opening-round playoff series.
The Blackhawks had knocked out the Minnesota Wild in five games, but they felt they weren’t matching the energy other teams around the league were bringing to their playoff series. It was something that concerned them as they got ready to face the Detroit Red Wings, a team hot off upsetting the Anaheim Ducks.
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks finally felt their play and intensity met what’s required for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the Blackhawks are still far from being content, they were pleased with the way they often dominated play in a 4-1 win over the Red Wings in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
“I thought that was probably our best game of the postseason so far,” Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford said. “A lot of pressure, a lot of pucks at the net. We were skating, moving the puck great. I thought it was one of our better performances overall.”
After one period, the game looked as though it could go either way. Marian Hossa put the Blackhawks up first, but Damien Brunner leveled the score less than two minutes later. The teams were tied 1-1, and the Red Wings held a slight 7-6 advantage on shots on goal after one period.
The rest of the game would be a different story.
The Blackhawks emerged from their dressing room in the second period and seized control of the game. They spent a majority of the period in their offensive zone and placed shot after shot on Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Howard denied all 17 shots he faced in the second period, but it was only a matter of time before the Blackhawks broke though. And that came in the third period as they continued their offensive push and finally found a few openings. Johnny Oduya broke the 1-1 tie, Marcus Kruger provided a two-goal lead, and Patrick Sharp finalized the win with an empty-netter. The Blackhawks ended up outshooting the Red Wings 42-21 for the night.
“When [the Red Wings] scored that goal, I thought we had a little lull there to finish the first period,” Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. “We came out in the second, and I thought we had a great second period. Put a lot of pucks and shots at Howard. He’s a great goaltender. You got to put a lot of pucks and shots and get put in front of him. I thought we did a good job of that tonight, and we got rewarded.”
The Blackhawks’ play put Quenneville in a better mood in his postgame news conference. He was often frustrated even after wins in the first round.
“Much better from our prior series,” Quenneville said. “What we’re talking about in our team game was in place. Had some pace, had some speed, zone time. I thought everybody contributed.”
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was on the other side of the spectrum. He was now the coach searching for something more from his team.
“We got to get up to speed because we haven’t played like that in a while,” Babcock said. “We got to get back at her and get playing at a high tempo because obviously they’re playing at a level tonight we’re not playing at.”