NHL

Cullen: Crawford, Toews key Blackhawks' Game One win

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Scott Cullen
5/19/2014 10:17:29 AM
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The Chicago Blackhawks opened the Western Conference Final with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game One. Notes on the Jonathan Toews-Anze Kopitar matchup, Duncan Keith, Jeff Schultz, Corey Crawford and more.

Blackhawks LW Brandon Saad had a goal and an assist to lead Chicago's attack, but the Blackhawks did not hold the territorial edge in play against the Kings. Only three Blackhawks -- Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Johnny Oduya -- were on the ice for better than 50% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts.

Real credit for the Blackhawks' defensive effort must go to the line of Toews, Bickell and Marian Hossa, along with the defence pairing of Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson; they took on the toughest matchup, against the Kings' top line and, in addition to Toews tallying the Blackhawks' third goal, the unit held the playoffs' leading scorer, Kings C Anze Kopitar, without a shot attempt and RW Justin Williams had all four of his attempts blocked.

Blackhawks D Duncan Keith, who scored the game-winning goal, was on for 30.8% of the 5-on-5 shot attempts, getting the wrong end of a frequent matchup against the line of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Toffoli was the Kings' lone goal-scorer.

In a surprise twist, Kings D Jeff Schultz, who had turnovers that contributed to the Blackhawks' first two goals, also had spectacular puck possession numbers. With Schultz on the ice, the Kings had 22 shot attempts for and five against, 81.5%. With Schultz off the ice, the Kings earned 45.6% of the game's 5-on-5 shot attempts.

While the Blackhawks didn't hold the possession edge overall, they did get another strong goaltending performance from Corey Crawford, who stopped 25 of 26 shots -- the third straight game in which Crawford has allowed a single goal.

Even though he won the Stanley Cup last season, he doesn't necessarily have the postseason rep of Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, but Crawford has done all right for himself in 50 career playoff games. Since 2000, he ranks third (behind Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask) in save percentage, among goaltenders with at least 40 playoff appearances.

Since the Blackhawks and Kings are both top-tier possession clubs, it could easily come down to which team gets the better goaltending and Crawford gives the Blackhawks a legitimate chance to win that matchup.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Corey Crawford (Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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