By Allan Muir
To a man, the Chicago Blackhawks came out of their first-round series with the Minnesota Wild saying they had to take their game up a level if they hoped to continue on the path to the Stanley Cup. They proved tonight that they weren’t just flapping their gums.
After a stodgy first period, the Hawks seriously ramped up their attack on the way to a convincing 4-1 win over the Red Wings in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Marian Hossa opened the scoring for Chicago in the first, with Johnny Oduya, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Sharp tallying in the third. Damien Brunner replied for Detroit after Hossa’s goal, but that was all the Wings could muster.
If not for the heroics of goalie Jimmy Howard, who stopped 38 of the 41 shots he faced, things would have been a lot worse for the visitors. The Hawks came at Detroit’s defenders in waves, overwhelming them with numbers or sheer tenacity and pinning them in their own zone for long, exhausting stretches. Howard made some big saves along the way — his skateblade stop on Dave Bolland’s breakaway bid was a highlight — but too often he was left on his own while his defenders stood still or were caught looking the other way while their checking assignments skated unmolested into the slot.
This was a statement game from Chicago. Now it’s up to the Red Wings to prove they can match it.
A few more observations from the series opener: