By Adam Hoge-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) — Showtime.
One word described it all for Patrick Kane, and that word came straight from his own mouth.
Locked in a 2-2 tie in the third period Friday night, Kane danced past Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin — Minnesota’s top two defensemen — before flipping a ridiculous backhander over Ilya Bryzgalov’s left shoulder to win Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Wild.
“I got the puck in the neutral zone, was just trying to see what my options were,” Kane said. “Cut to the middle, was about to drop it to (Patrick Sharp) and saw both guys kind of go to him, so I tried to take it in on my backhand and get a shot off and lucky enough it went in. It’s a good feeling.”
That much was evident by his celebration. Skating along the near boards, Kane was caught on camera yelling, “Showtime!”
Indeed, it was time for the Blackhawks to show something, especially after sleepwalking through the second period and a big portion of the third. Despite getting out to a 2-0 lead, the Blackhawks were out-shot 20-3 during a large stretch of the game and coughed up the lead.
But that’s when Kane flipped the switch. You know, the one the Blackhawks can turn on whenever they want.
Eight minutes later, Kane netted another one. Just 32 seconds after that, Bryan Bickell finished it off with an empty-netter — his second goal of the night as well.
Suddenly, the 5-2 final score looked more like what was expected in this series.
And that’s the thing. For those searching for reasons why the Blackhawks won’t beat the Wild in the Western Conference Semifinals, keep looking.
Sure, the Wild peppered the Blackhawks with shots for at least half the game, but that appeared to have more to do with the Hawks taking a nap than it did the Wild stepping up their game.
Even Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo seemed to understand that.
“It didn’t have the feeling of a game that we were going to win, for sure,” Yeo said.
That’s a scary thought for the Wild, because no one in the Blackhawks’ locker room seemed pleased with the win — even Kane.
“They probably took it to us for most of the game,” the winger said. “So we’ll try to come back with a better effort in Game 2.”
Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville didn’t even attempt to crack a smile in his post game press conference.
“We’re probably fortunate and it certainly gets your attention,” he said.
Yeo knows what’s coming. He immediately pointed to last year’s Game 2 against the Blackhawks, saying: “They taught us a lesson last year in Game 2.”
Sure, it would be foolish to rule the Wild out of the series, but in terms of legitimate evidence pointing towards a Minnesota upset, there doesn’t appear to be much.
The Wild might be more experienced this time around, but the Blackhawks’ formula for victory in the playoffs appears to be no different than last year’s Stanley Cup win. Corey Crawford is just as good. The penalty kill is just as good. Another second-line center is stepping up (this time, Ben Smith). Brent Seabrook is racking up points (eight in just four games). And Bryan Bickell is happening again (four playoff goals after just 11 in the regular season).
In fact, there was really only one negative Friday night — a first period injury to Andrew Shaw, who did not return. Quenneville said he is day-to-day with a lower body injury and the team will know more Saturday. If Shaw misses any games in this series, it would be a somewhat significant blow, even if it eliminates the obligatory stupid penalty once a game (Friday night’s was an interference penalty on the other end of the ice while the Blackhawks were on an odd-man rush).
But let’s be honest, losing Shaw didn’t seem to hurt the Blackhawks much Friday night. It might hurt more in a later series, but they can live without him against the Wild.
Meanwhile, Patrick Kane has a swagger matched by none. He was dancing around the Wild defensemen all night, even before it became “showtime”.
So, does he always yell that after scoring?
“Sometimes,” he said with a smile. “Why? Did it look like I said that?”
Yes it did, Patrick. And it was the perfect thing to say.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.