2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Keys to Blackhawks WCF Game 2 Win
Playing their second game in just over 24 hours, Chicago used home-ice advantage to its full potential.
The Blackhawks scored twice in the first period to take an early lead and then chased Kings' netminder Jonathan Quick with a pair of goals early in the second. L.A. scored on the power play late in the third period, but were never really in it.
Quick let up four goals on 17 shots and was pulled before the game got to the midway point of the second period. He had not allowed more than three goals in any game over the past two postseasons.
Here are five reasons why Chicago has a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Los Angeles.
Corey Crawford Is Stellar...Again
Remember at the end of the 2013 regular season, when Corey Crawford had a string of iffy games and backup Ray Emery was looking like the surefire fit as the playoff starter?
Fast-forward to where we are now; the Blackhawks are two wins away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, and Crawford has been a huge part of his team's success.
In a first period in which the Kings outplayed the Blackhawks and out-shot them 13-9, Crawford stood his ground and stopped every shot he faced. He wound up stopping 29-of-31 for the night, with one goal coming via a quick one-timer off the stick of Jeff Carter at 18:57 in the second period.
Crawford never had a chance as Carter fired away after a faceoff win from the left circle. The other goal came via a too little, too late power play that was stuffed in by the quick hands of youngster Tyler Toffoli.
Billed as the lesser goaltender in the series when compared to reigning Conn Smythe winner and Stanley Cup champ Jonathan Quick, Crawford has been more than up to the task so far.
Over the Blackhawks' five-game winning streak, Crawford has allowed just eight goals while stopping 136-of-144 shots, good for a 0.94 save-percentage, the same mark he posted in the Game 2 win over L.A.
Jonathan Quick Gets Chased...Quickly
Forgive the pun, but it was a very quick night for the Kings' netminder.
Jonathan Quick saw 17 shots in the loss and let four of them get past him. Michal Handzus' wrist shot beat Quick stick-side at the 9:29 mark in the second period to put Chicago up 4-0. It would be the last shot Quick faced on the night.
The Blackhawks set the tone early when Andrew Shaw beat Quick low to the glove-side with a shot that wrung off the post and in on Chicago's second shot of the game. The tally came at the 1:56 mark of the first period.
Quick, who came into the series with top numbers among goaltenders this postseason, did not even make it to the halfway point in Game 2 before yielding net duties to Jonathan Bernier.
The Blackhawks seem to have Quick figured out by shooting low near the pads and getting traffic in front. All four goals on the night for Chicago came via low shots or redirects with red shirts surrounding Quick's crease.
Blackhawks Role Players Thrive
Viktor Stalberg's pretty pass to Andrew Shaw set the tone early for the Blackhawks as the winger cashed in for his fourth goal of the postseason.
Game 7 overtime hero Brent Seabrook stepped up and fired one past Quick in the last minute of the first period, giving the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead. Second-period goals from Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus came just two minutes and nine seconds apart, and the rout was on.
Bickell's goal appeared to be redirected in by Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr, but the big winger got the credit for his sixth score of the postseason. Better yet for Chicago, it came via the power play, where the Blackhawks were 1-for-2 on the night.
Michael Frolik, Marcus Kruger and the Blackhawks' penalty kill was efficient as ever, giving up just one power-play goal on four Los Angeles attempts.
Michal Rozsival got in a bit of a scrap with Colin Fraser while protecting Captain Jonathan Toews, and the latter stood up for his gritty defenseman as well.
Richards, Kopitar Are M.I.A.
Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards are missing in action for different reasons.
Richards was scratched before the Kings' Game 2 loss with an upper-body injury after taking a booming hit from Dave Bolland in Game 1, so he didn't skate.
Kopitar did skate, but 11 in white might as well have been a ghost in this series so far.
Kopitar is averaging 19:42 seconds of ice time per game, which is among the team leaders. But the star center hasn't registered a point yet and has just three shots in the series.
With veteran defenseman Drew Doughty sitting for a few minutes after being shaken up in a collision with Bryan Bickell, the Kings were certainly glad to see their blueliner return to the ice minutes later.
But Richards' health poses major questions for L.A. moving forward, and they'll certainly need Kopitar to pick up his play if they want to have any chance against Chicago for the remainder of the series.
Momentum Still in Full Effect
Both the Blackhawks and the Kings played hard-fought, talent-laden and gritty series against division rivals in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Both won 2-1 games at home in Game 7 to get to where they are today, fighting for a chance to represent the West for the Stanley Cup. The comparisons end there.
The Kings never trailed in their series against the San Jose Sharks and won all four of their home games to advance. The Blackhawks trailed 3-1 in their series against Detroit before winning three straight in a galvanizing performance to overcome adversity.
With the two wins to start the Western Conference Finals, Chicago has now won five in a row, four of which came at home in the United Center.
Home-ice advantage in a ridiculously loud, enthusiastic building always helps, but the Blackhawks have been the hungrier team in this series so far, knowing that they did not want to give the Kings a road victory.
L.A. will take comfort in the fact that they have yet to lose at home in the Staples Center and will look to win their first game of the series on Tuesday when Chicago comes to town for Game 3. But until the Kings win a game, the Blackhawks will continue to ride their gigantic wave of momentum, something they have the Red Wings to thank for.