Kings vs. Blackhawks Game 1 recap: Chicago controls the opener

Jamie Squire

The score was close, but the game was not.

The Chicago Blackhawks made a statement in their 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final: Catch us if you can.

It wasn't that the Blackhawks blew out the Kings; Jonathan Quick ensured that didn't happen. But Chicago outplayed Los Angeles from the opening whistle, maintaining possession and dominating the shot clock through three periods and forcing Kings coach Darryl Sutter to juggle his lines in search of a combination that could turn the tide.

The Kings actually survived the onslaught in the first period, scoring that frame's only goal despite being outshot 17-2. But the goal off Justin Williams' skate was more due to luck and completely against the run of play:

Lakingsgoal1_medium

In the second period, the Hawks either adjusted their approach or refocused on how to execute it: Get traffic in front of Quick and make it harder for the acrobatic goalie to do his thing.

The approach worked, to the tune of two goals and a 2-1 lead at the second intermission, despite the Hawks only outshooting the Kings 14-12 in that period.

First Patrick Sharp rushed the net as Johnny Oduya's shot created a perfectly timed rebound. Drew Doughty was caught directing coverage and worrying about Oduya's rush, leaving Sharp open to slam the rebound past Quick:

Chihawks1_medium

Less than four minutes later, Marian Hossa deflected Duncan Keith's shot from the point, creating a late redirection that Quick could not anticipate:

Hawksgoal2_medium

Though the Kings outshot the Hawks 8-5 in the third period, they rarely made Chicago goalie Corey Crawford uncomfortable and never looked to close to finding an equalizer. That was when Sutter juggled lines without finding an effective combination. The game ended with the Blackhawks on the power play, all too happy to kill the clock.

On the fun GIF side of things, there were plenty of big hits, like this one early in the game by Dustin Brown on Bryan Bickell:

Brownhit_medium

There was also this overly enthusiastic carry of the puck by Kyle Clifford, which garnered a call for traveling, or rather two minutes for closing his hand on the puck:

Handpuck_medium

And in the first period, Brandon Saad discovered that trying to cut corners around the net has its consequences:

Saadderp_medium

Finally, with time winding down and in a hit that might have injury repercussions, Dave Bolland knocked Mike Richards silly with this hit behind the net:

Richardsow_medium

Richards was holding his chin and slow to get back to the bench. The Kings took a penalty seconds later that ended all hope of a comeback.

Due to scheduling conflicts at the United Center, these two teams will be back at it for Game 2 Sunday night. The Kings will need a much better effort to gain a split before the series goes back to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4.

Before Game 1, we posed three questions to consider heading into the series. Here is where the answers stand after Game 1:

Will the schedule be a factor?

Because of The Rolling Stones' presence at the United Center this week, this series couldn't begin until Saturday. That means these two teams are stuck starting two games in the span of 27 hours before taking a trip out to the West Coast.

Obviously we won't know if the schedule is a factor until they get deeper into the series, but the Hawks appeared much more ready to play in Game 1. They came out and controlled the puck most of the game.

Can Corey Crawford top Jonathan Quick?

As it turns out, Crawford barely had to. The Hawks peppered Quick with shots throughout the game, and Crawford was only beaten on the fluke bounce off Williams' skate.

If the Blackhawks get their offensive game going, can the Kings keep up?

The high-powered Hawks didn't outscore the Kings by a large margin, but their own puck control was key to keeping the Kings from establishing anything offensively.

More in the NHL:

Complete Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage

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