By Jay Zawaski–
(CBS) The Blackhawks suck. Season’s over.
That’s been my go-to, sarcastic Twitter comment after Blackhawks losses for many years. I’ve used it dozens of time, each instance more hilarious than the last. I didn’t get a chance to use it Sunday, however. Why? Because a couple of Blackhawks fans on Twitter beat me to the punch. The key difference was their lack of sarcasm.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday, the host Anaheim Ducks were 4-1 winners against Chicago. This was despite the Ducks despite being outshot 33-27 and the Blackhawks holding a 60-46 Corsi advantage (57 percent) at even strength. To even the most novice of naked eyes, the Blackhawks were the better team for long stretches of the game.
With all of that in mind, I’m here to tell you that panicking about this game is silly.
If not for the goaltending heroics of Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen, the score would have been as lopsided in Chicago’s favor as many of the possession metrics. Of course, the score is what matters, and while most of what we saw from the Blackhawks was encouraging, there are a few issues that need to be resolved if Chicago is going to win this series.
Let’s break the game down
What went right
Possession: The numbers here are pretty staggering, especially in the first two periods. The Blackhawks had a 69.4 Corsi percentage in five-on-five even-strength in the first period, then posted a 58.1 percent mark in the second. If the rest of the series looks like this, the Ducks won’t win.
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau acknowledged as much in his postgame press conference.
“We were opportunistic tonight,” he said. “We’re going to have to play better if we want to stay with these guys.”
That’s exactly correct. In my series preview, I mentioned that it would be “party time” when the Blackhawks got the puck in the Ducks’ zone. Well, it was like a surprise party in which the guest of honor never shows. Sure, they got a little buzzed, but at the end, everyone left disappointed.
Limiting Perry, Getzlaf: The Ducks dynamic duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf combined for only four shots on goal and seven shot attempts. It was Anaheim’s depth players who did all the damage.
What went wrong
Fifth, sixth defenseman: If you watched the game, I don’t need to document how mightily Blackhawks defenseman David Rundblad struggled. He was on the ice for two of the three non-empty net goals that the Ducks scored and was partly responsible for both.
Rundblad played like a deer in headlights. He was often indecisive. In hockey, sometimes it’s worse to be indecisive than to just make the wrong decision. Be aggressive or don’t be aggressive. You can’t be both.
Kimmo Timonen only played 5:15 of this game. I believe that number needs to go up by at least two or three minutes. The Blackhawks can do their best to use him for offensive zone starts and ideal matchups. Somehow, he needs to be on the ice more.
Many have asked if Kyle Cumiskey or Stephen Johns are options. At this point, I’d be surprised to see either of them play without another injury. It’s likely Rundblad and Timonen, win or lose.
Power play: Chicago’s power play wasn’t abysmal, but it didn’t score. Five shots on three power plays isn’t exactly domination, but the Blackhawks got a couple of good chances. However, the power play hasn’t really worked well in a number of years.
I’d like to see Teuvo Teravainen get a look on the power play. His skill package — hands, vision, passing and shooting — is exactly what a coach looks for when assembling a power-play unit. What can giving him a look on the next few power plays really hurt?
Game 2 of the series is Tuesday night. If the Blackhawks play Game 2 like they played Game 1, they’ll be in solid shape and should win.
Don’t let the scoreboard fool you. Chicago was the better team and is the better team.
Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Spiegel and Goff Show on 670 The Score and the Blackhawks columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JayZawaski670. He will be on air for Blackhawks postgame coverage on 670 The Score following Game 2 and Games 5, 6 and 7, if necessary.