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Three's A Charm: Blackhawks Take Game 1 Vs. LA

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 19, 2014 2:00PM

Since the Blackhawks fell into an 0-2 hole against St. Louis in their opening round playoff series the defending Stanley Cup champions have occasionally show flashes of the form they used to win last year's championship. For much of this postseason, however, the Hawks have had to fight for every win against the Blues and Minnesota Wild.

The one consistent during Chicago's current playoff run has been goaltender Corey Crawford, who outplayed another more heralded goalie in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at the United Center. Sixteen of Crawford's 25 saves came in a fast-paced second period where the Kings consistently attacked the Chicago defense, with Crawford making some beautiful saves at point-blank range.

The Blackhawks also got untracked offensively. Brandon Bollig, back from a two-game suspension, did what he does best and drew a roughing penalty on Alex Martinez in the first period. Brandon Saad made the ensuing power play count.

Aside from Saad's goal the first period saw the two teams feeling each other out. The Kings turned up the offense early in the second period and tied the score with a tip-in by Tyler Toffoli at the 4:35 mark.

The Kings continued to test Crawford and the Hawks defense but Duncan Keith helped Chicago regain the lead at the 11:54 mark. Cue the foghorn and "Chelsea Dagger."

The pace slowed again in the third period as the Blackhawks held LA to four shots in the final 20 minutes. The Hawks only got off seven shots themselves but Jonathan Toews made one count on an odd-man rush with 3:50 remaining.

The Kings' second period attacks allowed them to outshoot the Blackhawks 26-20 but The Hawks used their speed and puck possession game to score against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. The Blackhawks protected the puck well with three giveaways while taking the puck away from the Kings six times. Saad had an assist to go with his goal but Toews, who scored his sixth goal in the playoffs, saved his highest praise for Crawford.

"As a team, we want to keep raising our level of play as the stage gets bigger and bigger. If there's anyone that's doing it, it's Crow. Whether it's big penalty kills or us protecting situations late in games, he just seems to get better and better as the pressure mounts."

If Crawford and the Hawks continue to perform this way, back-to-back Stanley Cups are possible. Game 2 is 7 p.m. Tuesday at the United Center.