Kings vs Blackhawks Game 1: Not Too Bad, Actually
Heading into this game, the Kings had only managed to win against the Chicago Blackhawks twice in the last two seasons. Once in Chicago during the regular season and once in LA during the playoffs. Game 1 in the United Center came a day and a half after the LA Kings finished game 7 vs the Anaheim Ducks. It seemed like they were destined to head into the Western Conference Final tired and come out playing flat. That wasn’t entirely how things went down, it turned out.
The Blackhawks had the Kings on their heels some to start the game. Shot were 5-1 early in the period. Slava Voynov finally managed the Kings’ first shot after more than six minutes of regulation play. Things seemed to tip in Chicago’s favor when Alec Martinez pushed Brandon Bollig during a post-whistle scrum and Bollig went down easily. Even Jim Fox took exception to that.
@JimFox19 Bollig was grinning before he hit the ice. Was waiting 2 see "Thank you, Alex Martinez" but just a grin. Tough guy shouldn't dive.
— Kerry Fraser (@kfraserthecall) May 18, 2014
Martinez was given a roughing penalty, and the subsequent power play put Chicago up 1-0 after the Kings (looking at you, Jeff Schultz!) failed to clear the zone. During the second period, it appeared that the Blackhawks increased the lead to 2-0 after a Jonathan Toews shot hit goaltender Jonathan Quick in the pads, and then trickled through his legs as Toews crashed into him. Refs eventually waved the goal off for incidental contact after double-checking that the initial shot from Toews wasn’t already on its way into the net.
Shortly after, the Kings really made the most of that lucky break. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli once again used their speed to gain possession of the puck and crash the net, tying the game 1-1.
The Kings had really found their legs by the second period. They didn’t look tired at all through the second frame. Chicago got a fortunate go-ahead goal when a Duncan Keith shot deflected off of Trevor Lewis’ stick and past Quick (thanks to a turnover by, oh, hey, Jeff Schultz), but after 40 minutes of play it was mostly LA.
Kings have to be exhausted, but so far they've had 40 shot attempts, 24 unblocked, and 22 of those on net. Nice! pic.twitter.com/Fu1OOQB5lt
— THX BUD (@thxbud) May 18, 2014
They wouldn’t be able to find the equalizer in the third period, however. Chicago’s defense did a really good job of limiting LA’s scoring chances during the final 20 minutes. Toews put the nail in the coffin at 16:10, when a bad pinch by Jake Muzzin resulted in a 3-on-1 in the other direction. Drew Doughty and Quick failed to prevent the goal against.
The Kings fell 3-1, but they played a lot better than expected. There’s credit due to Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford, too. He’s played well this post-season, but Toffoli’s goal showed that crashing the net works against him. Another Toffoli chance that hit the post showed that it’s also possible to get Crawford to go down and beat him, so if the Kings adjust a little and bury their chances in tight, they have a real shot at doing damage in this series.