Going into the Western Conference Finals showdown between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings, a single underlying theme was presented: How will the young speed of the Blackhawks match up with the experience of the Red Wings?
Because this theme tilts largely toward Detroit, the overwhelming pick was Detroit in five/six games. In order to make this a more intriguing series, analysts broke down the 'Hawks, trying to find a way the younger team can overcome the defending champions.
In the Game One victory for Detroit, the key points for Chicago to win proved to be myths.
Chicago Has the Speed to Keep Up
Throughout the game, Detroit found themselves on 2-1, 3-2, and 4-2 rushes into the Chicago zone. Created mainly by turnovers, the Red Wings were constantly charging, keeping the 'Hawks on their toes.
Dan Clearly's game-tying goal in the first was a perfect example of this. After Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook had the puck bounce over his stick on his blue line, Cleary took off with one defender next to him and trailing Red Wings charging up the ice.
A wrist shot to the upper-right corner tied the game and gave the momentum back to the home team.
Chicago, meanwhile, did not show they had any speed whatsoever, constantly trying stretch passes up the ice, which Detroit easily disposed of.
If Chicago has any chance of stealing one in Detroit before heading home, they need to refine their forecheck to get the puck in their zone, and create pressure when the Red Wings try to get into theirs.
Only with turnovers can the Hawks show any form of speed to beat Detroit, and they have shown that they are not any faster, and perhaps even slower, than the defending champions.
Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook Can Hold the Line
The first line of defense on Chicago was thought to be talented enough to slow down the constant attack of the Red Wings. In Game One, the pair was played as fools.
Both players were tagged with unnecessary penalties in the first period, had a minus-2 rating for the game, and combined for a total of zero takeaways and five hits, all of which were credited to Seabrook.
On a wrap-around goal from Johan Franzen in the second period, Duncan Keith failed to get a pass to Seabrook behind the Chicago net, allowing the playoffs' leading scorer to get an easy chance at a goal.
The bad defensive play also translated in their own zone, such as the aforementioned Cleary goal.
Seabrook was credited with an assist when his shot bounced to a wide-open Kris Versteeg, but he and Keith played poorly enough to hurt the Blackhawks more than help.
Nikolai Khabibulin Can Withstand the Detroit Flurry
Despite giving up four goals, Khabibulin was a bright spot for the Blackhawks in Game One. He made 38 saves, several of which were outstanding, and kept his team in the game throughout.
He took the lower part of the goal away from Detroit, but his verdict can change to debunked easily if Detroit simply looks at the tape.
Both goals from the outside, not including the one redirected, beat Khabiulin on his glove side and up. Throughout the playoffs, he has shown a sever lack in stopping shots in this area, although he did swat a few away, namely from Marian Hossa.
Overall, it was the play of Chicago's defensemen that led to the loss, not the play of the goaltender.
The Youth of Chicago Allows Them to Play Loose
The young men form Chicago could not have looked more tentative in their first taste of Conference Finals play, and coach "Q" knew it, letting his captain and his No. 1 overall pick play only about 15 minutes of Game One.
Jonathan Towes and Patrick Kane had a minus-3 rating, Adam Burish was 3-of-12 on faceoffs, and the inexperience of the Blackhawks streamed from every pore on their beardless faces.
The inexperience showed all over the stat sheet. Despite watching Detroit give the puck away 11 times to their one, the Blackhawks had the puck taken away 11 times, compared to the four times they took it away themselves.
They also found a comfortable seat in the penalty box, sitting double the time Detroit did (12 minutes: 6 minutes).
Stats do not tell the whole picture from Game One, however, as the Red Wings simply outplayed the young Blackhawks in every way. Detroit showed they had better stick play, board presence, and overall poise than Chicago, and the result is a 1-0 lead.
Perhaps the beatdown will prove to be a learning curve for Chicago going into Game Two, as they were shown they can not get by on skill alone.