Game one of the NHL Western Conference Finals is in the books, with Chicago taking the early 1-0 advantage. Here’s what we learned from last night’s action!
This is not last year’s version of the Los Angeles Kings.
Last season, the Kings squeaked into the playoffs as the 8th seed out West. They then proceeded to stun the hockey world by lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup, due mostly to the fact that the Kings went 10-1 on the road during their magical playoff run. This year, the Kings lost their first two game in St. Louis, but managed to win on the road in St. Louis in game 5 of that first-round match-up. They have not won a road game since, losing all three that they played in San Jose and tonight’s game in Chi-Town. While the Kings are currently undefeated at home during these payoffs (compared to their 6-3 mark in last year’s), they do not enjoy home ice advantage in this series, so they cannot depend on winning in the Staples Center if they wish to end the Blackhawks’ season. The defending champs are going to have to regain their road-warrior mentality, like Sunday night, if they want to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
Jonathan Quick is a pretty good goaltender.
Yes, I know – I’m guilty of understating the facts here. Quick is not just good; he’s the best goalie in the NHL right now, and the Kings should be grateful that they have him. Chicago outshot Los Angeles 17-2 in the first period – 17-2! And when the period had ended, the Kings were ahead 1-0! Rumor has it the Chicago City Police were actually called in during the first intermission to file robbery charges against him – thank the lord that cooler heads prevailed. At the end of this game, LA should have been looking up at the scoreboard to see a three-, four-, maybe even a five-goal loss. Instead, they sort of had a chance to steal this game, thanks entirely to Jonathan Quick. Memo to the Los Angeles Kings’ brass: you might want to re-work the man’s contract, because whatever you’re paying him, it ain’t enough.
Playoff heroes are often the guys you would least expect.
If you had predicted, back when the playoffs began, who the hero of the Chicago Blackhawks would be, you probably would have picked Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, or Marian Hossa. Logical, since those were the Blackhawks’ three highest scorers during the regular season. Of course, had you picked one of those three, you would have been wrong, since it is Patrick Sharp who has scored the most goals for the Blackhawks this postseason. As a matter of fact, he has scored the most goals out of ANY player on any team this postseason. His goal in this game gives him eight postseason goals, two more than he scored during the entire regular season (granted, he only played 28 games), which just reminds us of something we already knew, yet somehow manage to forget each year: the playoffs are a whole new ballgame. Some regular season stars wilt under the hot lights – Jonathan Toews, take a bow! Wait – where did he go?!? – while players whose names you heard mentioned only once in a while during the regular season – Sharp for Chicago, Justin Williams for the Kings – start stealing the headlines. It’s always fun to watch a player make a name for himself when it matters the most, so keep an eye out for Sharp and Williams (who scored LA’s only goal tonight) and enjoy the legacies as they unfold in real time!