Los Angeles Kings vs. Chicago Blackhawks: Biggest Takeaways from Game 1
Brandon Saad scored a goal and added an assist while Marian Hossa set up two goals as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Corey Crawford made 25 saves to earn the win.
Tyler Toffoli scored the only goal for the Kings in this hard-fought defensive struggle between two very similar teams.
The Blackhawks now have a 1-0 lead in the series.
Game 2 will be played Wednesday night in Chicago.
Here is a look at the biggest takeaways from Game 1. Feel free to comment on any of the issues discussed here or to add one of your own. As always, indicate why you feel the way you do.
Corey Crawford Deserves More Respect
Corey Crawford came up big for Chicago in Game 1.
The Blackhawks goalie is considered by many to be the "other" goalie in this series, behind Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick. But Crawford outplayed Quick in Game 1 and was a major reason Chicago won the opener.
The key was the second period, when the Kings outshot the Blackhawks 17-6, but Crawford allowed only one goal. Many of the saves were spectacular. He kept his team in the game when they were being dominated on the ice.
In his last three contests, Crawford has now stopped 84 of 87 shots, good for a .965 save percentage. It is no coincidence that the Blackhawks have won all three of those games.
Chicago will need Crawford to continue playing well, but he's off to a great start in this series.
This Will Be a Defensive Series
If Game 1 is any indication, goals will be tough to come by in this series.
Both the Kings and Blackhawks play very strong, disciplined defense, and both teams feature starting goalies who have won the Stanley Cup.
The two teams were able to combine for just four goals on 46 official shots on goal in Game 1. There were nearly as many blocked shots (40) as shots on goal.
Both teams have well-respected coaches, deep defenses and forwards that back check and pick up opposing forwards in a responsible manner.
There was one controversial goal overturned in this game, with an apparent goal by Jonathan Toews being erased when the officials ruled Quick was hit in his crease.
Whether the call was proper or not, these two teams will have to fight hard for every goal they get for the rest of this series.
The Matchup of Toews vs. Kopitar Will Be Important
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had the last change in Game 1, and he constantly sent out his top line, featuring Jonathan Toews, against the Kings' top line centered by Anze Kopitar.
The results were good for Chicago. Kopitar was held without a point for only the second time in this year's postseason. In fact, he was held without a shot on goal for the game.
Marian Gaborik was also held in check. He registered three shots on goal but did not score either.
Kopitar and Gaborik were both minus-one in the game. The Kings' top line was largely neutralized.
Expect Quenneville to continue this matchup as often as he can during all of the games in Chicago. It will be interesting to see if Darryl Sutter continues to match Kopitar's line against Toews' unit when the series shifts to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4.
When each team's top units are matched up against each other, the trio that dominates will likely have a lot of influence as to which team wins games.
Marian Hossa Is an Underrated Playmaker
Marian Hossa has recorded eight NHL seasons with 30-plus goals and is known as one of the game's most consistent snipers.
But his playmaking ability is often overlooked. He had two assists in Game 1 against the Kings and made a number of pinpoint passes to set up quality scoring chances for Chicago.
Hossa has 13 points in 13 games for the Blackhawks. Just two of those points have come on goals.
While there is little doubt Hossa can still put the puck in the net, his ability to set up his teammates should not be underestimated. It made a difference in Game 1 of this series and is a factor the Kings need to deal with going forward.
Tyler Toffoli Has a Lot of Offensive Upside
Kings rookie Tyler Toffoli scored the only goal for Los Angeles in Game 1. He played 13:59 in this contest, not exactly top-six minutes.
Toffoli scored 12 goals and 29 points in 62 games with the Kings this season. But in the first game against Chicago, the Scarborough, Ontario, native showed that he has the raw ability to become a consistent scorer in this league.
In addition to the goal, Toffoli created additional scoring chances with his anticipation, hockey sense and quick release. He finished the game with four shots on goal and officially attempted four others.
If the Blackhawks manage to slow down the Kings' top line, players like Toffoli will be counted on to produce enough offense to win this series for Los Angeles.