Blackhawks fail to take advantage of Game 1 opportunities

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Chicago Blackhawks have played worse games than Sunday and won.

The Blackhawks pointed to some obvious areas in which they were displeased with their performance in the 4-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Sunday. Their three power plays were mediocre. They felt they didn't get enough net-front presence against Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen. Their defense, especially David Rundblad, failed to get the puck out of the defensive zone on a few costly Anaheim possessions.

But when the Blackhawks assessed their performance as a whole in Game 1, they weren't a team searching for answers. They played well enough to win, but didn't.

If Sunday's game played out again with the Ducks committing the same turnovers in dangerous places and Chicago creating the same 70 shots attempts, including 33 on net, the Blackhawks -- and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau -- understood the same outcome wasn't likely to repeat.

"You know, you allow over 30 shots, I mean, we got lucky and scored," Boudreau said. "We were opportunistic tonight. We're going to have to play better if we want to continue to stay with these guys."

The Blackhawks played like a team looking to separate themselves right away from the Ducks. Despite 10 days off between series, the Blackhawks came out flying like their last game was today. They shot 27 times and placed 16 of those attempts on net in the first period. The Ducks had just seven shots on net and attempted all of 13 shots. Anaheim also had six giveaways, a number of which handed Chicago some quality chances.

The Blackhawks did enough in the first period to be up by a couple goals. Instead, they found themselves down by one goal. Andersen was part of the explanation for that. The other is hockey can be a funny game sometimes.

"I thought we had a real good start to the game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Being down 1-0 after one was a tough spot to be in."

The Blackhawks felt like they had let a priceless opportunity -- actually a number of them over 20 minutes -- slip from their grasp. They had a chance to jump on the Ducks in their own building, a place where they remain undefeated in the playoffs, and just couldn't capitalize. No opportunity was more frustrating for them in the first period than when Patrick Kane waited out Andersen in the slot, got him moving away from the net, and Andersen was still able to deny the puck by stretching out his stick.

"First period, you'd like to get a goal, but you never know how games are going to go," said Blackhawks forward Brad Richards, who scored the team's lone goal. "Tough to sustain that, but coming off a layoff, we saw what we can do. But overall, this is obviously a lot more dangerous team. For 60 minutes, you've got to be on."

Whenever the Blackhawks were off Sunday, that seemed to be the time the Ducks made sure they were on. The Ducks' opportunities weren't plentiful, but they didn't let them go to waste.

In the first period, Matt Beleskey overpowered Rundblad at the blue line to push the puck into Chicago's zone, and later in the shift Beleskey knocked Rundblad to the ice with a crosscheck, creating room for a shot from Hampus Lindholm to bypass Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. In the second period, Rundblad and Johnny Oduya were unable to clear the puck from their zone, and it resulted in a Ducks goal by Kyle Palmieri.

Rundblad swung his stick and broke it on the right goalpost in anger following the second goal.

Rundblad's struggles weren't completely unexpected. He was shaky defensively at times in the regular season and was only on the ice Sunday because Michal Rozsival broke his ankle in the final game of the second round. Rundblad also hadn't played since last month.

Quenneville tried to be as nice about Rundblad's play as he could in the postgame news conference.

"You don't want to be on the ice when they score obviously," Quenneville said. "I think defensively you can look at the plays. We want to make sure we're making safe plays, quick plays, easy exits. A couple of those maybe we could do differently. But, you know, not an easy start, first playoff game, hadn't played for an extensive period."

The Blackhawks are a team that often turns to their experience. They've been through a bit of everything in the playoffs in years past, and a 1-0 deficit isn't anything new to them. So as soon as Game 1 ended, they were quickly looking ahead to Game 2.

The Blackhawks' goal heading into the series was to take at least one game in Anaheim and gain home-ice advantage. It's what they did against the Nashville Predators in the first round. That goal now rests on how they fare in Game 2.

"I think we have to take it as it's one game," Kane said. "We still have a chance to come here and do what we want to do to and take one from them. Try to get home ice back in our favor. We still have that opportunity. Obviously the next game is huge and we have to come ready to play."