Chicago Blackhawks stay perfect at home, take Game 1

Blackhawks stay perfect at home, take Game 1

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

On Sunday, in a game that was a much bigger win for Chicago than a loss for Los Angeles the Blackhawks notched a 3-1 victory. In Game 1 the Blackhawks had a favorable scheduling advantage because the Kings just finished off their last hard fought series on Friday night. It was a quick turnaround for Los Angeles but they played well.

Home ice in the playoffs can make a difference. The Hawks are a perfect 7-0 this season and 18-2 dating back to last year in playoff games at the United Center. Again the Blackhawks took care of business when needed. Being down a game and having to play a rested Kings team on Wednesday would have been a difficult challenge. Now the Hawks will look to build off a decent performance and defend home ice.

The first period was about even, the Hawks found their legs quickly despite being off since last Tuesday. To their credit the Kings played with energy and had a solid opening frame but trailed entering the second period. The Blackhawks scored first as Brandon Saad was in perfect position to tip in a well placed shot by Nick Leddy.

Then early in the next frame Jonathan Toews scored what appeared to be a goal. The call on the ice by the referee standing near the net was a good goal, but was later waved off. It was an “only in the NHL” moment. Unfortunately for the league many of those “moments" seem to happen in the postseason when media scrutiny is the highest.

On the play, Toews drove the net and the puck came off his stick and hit the skate of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov. The puck then slid in past a sprawling Jonathan Quick. At about the same time the puck crossed the line Toews made contact with Quick who was at the top of the goal crease. The puck appeared to be past Quick who moved toward Toews when they made contact.

A goaltender interference call is not a reviewable play. So logic would say the call on the ice should stand but nothing can be taken for granted in the NHL. It should be noted the referee closest to the play was in great position to make the call.

After the celebration started the referee skated toward the official scorer and put on the headset as to converse with the Toronto War Room. After quite a few minutes the announcement was made the goal was disallowed because of incidental contact with the goaltender.

Joel Quenneville was screaming behind the bench and his club must have felt a letdown because from that point on the Kings were in control of the period. Things then went from bad to worse for the Blackhawks because about one minute after the no goal ruling the Kings scored to tie the game.

The NHL to their credit began video replay way back in the 1991-1992 season, and was the first major sport to do so. Unfortunately the league still hasn’t gotten the process correct.

The NHL seemingly walks an impossible fine line between trying to shield their on ice officials from added scrutiny, thus they only use video replay on certain plays. There are quite a few goal scoring plays which can not be reviewed. All of which could make a huge difference in a game.

Goaltender interference is one of those calls and on Sunday instead of leaving the on ice call stand, which appeared correct, the NHL found a way to change it.

Here is the written explanation from the league:

At 3:22 of the second period in the Kings/Blackhawks game, the referee consulted video review to see if Jonathan Toews' initial shot entered the Los Angeles net. It was determined Toews' initial shot did not enter the net. The referee's original call on the ice was "good goal" but a discussion between the on-ice officials resulted in a "no goal" decision because Toews made incidental contact with Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick before the puck crossed the goal line. This is not a reviewable play therefore the decision on the ice stands - no goal and no penalty.

My thinking is the NHL was scrambling to justify the process and they are wrong on many levels. The rule book falls short and if video review is going to be used it needs to be implemented on goal scoring plays. Nothing is more important than getting the score correct.

It isn't logical to believe the on ice officials were not influenced by the opinion of someone in the Toronto War Room. If not why was there a lengthy discussion involving a headset?

The rule book needs to be changed and more plays should be eligible for review. If a player reached onto the goal line to grab a puck with his hand which was about to enter the net that would not be eligible for review either.

On Sunday everyone involved with overturning the goal looked bad. In my view, and to make matters worse, that goal would have likely counted during the regular season. Goals matter then too and the wrong score could prevent a club from qualifying from the playoffs.

Breaks come into play for both sides and that was what happened Sunday.

About seven minutes later with the Kings coming on and the Hawks back on their heels Duncan Keith let a shot go from just inside of the blue line. Marian Gaborik’s stick got in the way and the puck was deflected and then seemed to bounce off the ice and up and over a startled Quick. Once the Hawks regained the lead they seemed to settle down and then the Kings lost some of their steam.

It was yet another game whereby the Hawks didn’t play at a high level for all three periods. The middle frame has been their worst throughout this postseason. What was different on Sunday is the Hawks came back to control the third period in a very effective manner.

The Kings were probably running low on gas but the Blackhawks played solid defense while staying aggressive. Los Angeles' managed a meager four shots on goal during the final 20 minutes.

As has been the case Corey Crawford was very good. He made some big stops and also was fortunate. Crawford got lucky on a Tyler Toffoli breakaway as he beat the Hawks netminder only to send a shot off the outside of the post from close range. Crawford was also aided by some good plays by his defensemen, but most important was the fact he outplayed Quick.

Brandon Bollig was back in the lineup and Peter Regin made his second consecutive start.

Bollig felt contact on a scrum and took a fall to the ice which drew a penalty. The officials bit and the Hawks scored their opening goal on the resulting power play. It was a smart time to go down easy as Bollig used his head.

Joel Quenneville was able to better utilize all four lines and spread the ice time out over 12 forwards. That should be useful as the series progresses.

When Andrew Shaw returns Quenneville will have to decide who will not dress. Shaw skated over the weekend and it remains to be seen when he will be cleared to play. Regin won only two of 12 faceoffs and to remain in the lineup his percentage probably needs to get better.

As Regin kept losing draws, Marcus Kruger only took two faceoff attempts, which is curious. Maybe Kruger has suffered a hand or wrist injury.

The Blackhawks will expect to face a bigger push from Los Angeles on Wednesday night. The two days off should benefit the Kings.

It shouldn’t be overlooked the Hawks passing was good, especially considering being off for a few days. The Blackhawks defense came through with 25 blocked shots which was 10 more than Los Angeles. The Hawks were ready to play but they will need to string together a full 60 minute performance at some point.

Both rosters are full of players who know how to win the big games. Hopefully the players will decide the outcomes, not the officiating.

I will be back on Thursday morning and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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