Chicago Blackhawks: Six Takeaways from Round One

By Tim Lively

Apr 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (81) celebrates a game winning goal scored by Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) against the Nashville Predators during third period in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. The Blackhawks won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Well it may not have been as pretty or as decisive as we would have liked, but Saturday our beloved Chicago Blackhawks beat the Nashville Predators in six games in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

For the first round, there was certainly a decent amount of developments, some dramatic and some downright decent, but in the end, they added up to the Hawks moving on to the next round. While the Hawks prepare to faceoff against the Minnesota Wild in the second round, let’s take a closer look at the Blackhawks’ first series victory on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals.

#6 – Sharpie is Sharper

For such a handsome man, Patrick Sharp hasn’t had a really pretty regular season compared to years past. Add to that all the ugly rumors milling about during the trade deadline that certainly took an additional toll on Sharp’s play. Well we all know that the post season is a chance for new beginnings, and Sharpie has certainly capitalized on that opportunity. Sharp has skated with a new sense of purpose and confidence against Nashville and proved to be an offensive force to be reckoned with. Sharp tallied three goals in the first round of the playoffs, tied with Jonathan Toews for a team high, and is looking primed to make a strong showing going forward.

Apr 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) celebrates a game winning goal with teammates left wing Brandon Saad (20) and defenseman Brent Seabrook (7) and right wing Marian Hossa (81) and center Jonathan Toews (19) against the Nashville Predators during third period in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. The Blackhawks won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

#5 – The First Line Chi-umvirate: Tazer, Saad and Hoss

Speaking of forces to be reckoned with, how about that first line of Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Brandon Saad? We’ve seen this line do great things before during the regular season, but then get broken up due to offensive struggles elsewhere. Now in the first round of the playoffs, this triumvirate has been re-united and packed quite a powerful punch, in fact so powerful the Preds were never able to find an answer to them. Toews played like Toews scoring the usual clutch goals and Hossa played like an ageless animal pushing offensive drives while his unofficial protégé Saad sniped some key goals, all combining for a total of 15 points. Here’s hoping Coach Joel Quenneville keeps his killer combo intact during the second round.

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#4 – The Fantastic Fourth Line

The saying goes that the Stanley Cup is won by a team’s third and fourth lines. That being said, you have to be encouraged by the play of the Hawks’ fourth line of Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and Andrew Desjardins. Though this line only had a collective two points, but watching them play, there’s no denying this is a line built to grind down the competition. Kruger, Shaw, and Desjardins all played with relentless tenacity and were more than a handful for whichever Predator line they were matched up against. The Hawks will definitely need more of this against the Minnesota Wild.

Apr 23, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) hits Nashville Predators center Calle Jarnkrok (19) during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

#3 – Multiple Blue Line Disorder

Overall, the play of the Blackhawks’ Big Four defensemen (Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, and Johnny Oduya) was phenomenal! However, once again, it’s the third line of Michal Rozsival and Kimmo Timonen that has already emerged as a source of potential liability in multiple ways. First off, don’t get me started about Rozsival. While he made some decent plays, he certainly committed his usual share of mistakes involving getting caught out of position, dumb penalties, and poor clearing passes. Timonen’s play was also not very encouraging purely by it’s minimal quantity. And this is what worries me: Rozsival and Timonen’s longevity. Already in the first round, the Blackhawks played over 7 games worth of periods. Everyone knows that these two veterans just don’t have the legs for that amount playing time anymore, and the series against the Wild is going to be just as much of a grind. Everyone also knows that with fatigue come mistakes, mistakes that can lead to lost games, and lost series. I seriously hope Coach Q at least tries rotating in the younger bodies of David Rundblad and/or Kyle Cumiskey going forward, because the Big Four defensemen can’t shoulder such a work load indefinitely.

#2 – Hawks Not Adverse to Adversity

It should not be overlooked that the Blackhawks overcame a three-goal deficit to win the game not once but twice during this series. This is no small order. Not that we want the Blackhawks to be in this position again, but it certainly is reassuring that the Hawks have learned early and often how to dig themselves out of a hole this soon in the post season. This is clearly an example of the Hawks advantage of experience shining through, and one they’ll need to lean on heavily in their series against the less experienced Wild.

Apr 25, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) replaces goalie Scott Darling (33) in the first period in game six of the first round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

#1 – Oh My Darling!

Obviously, the biggest development of the Hawks-Preds series was between the pipes for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford‘s early implosion was a deep concern, but it was a concern quickly allayed by the spectacular play of Scott Darling. Everyone knew Darling had talent from the glimpses we had of him during the regular season, but it can be said without hyperbole that Darling saved this series for the Hawks. It was however somewhat disappointing by Game 6 that Darling’s novice mental experience caught up with him, but it actually was a mixed blessing since it brought Crow back to the net as the starter. Even so, it is deeply reassuring knowing that if Crawford has another lapse, which we all know is entirely possible, Darling is ready to stand and deliver.

Now it’s on to the Wild. Four down, twelve to go!


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