As entertaining as watching the Blackhawks can be, they can also be equally as frustrating. As sometimes is the case, the Hawks gave their fans a little of everything, but in the end not enough.
The Coyotes were outplayed badly in the opening 15 minutes Thursday night but when all was said and done, they put forth the more complete effort. The Blackhawks were beaten 3-2 in overtime, in a game that was theirs for the taking.
It would be understandable after watching Thursday night’s contest to come away with the impression the Coyotes are a team the Hawks should handle. They aren’t very flashy, although they have some young players who are highly skilled. What matters most to their head coach Dave Tippett is that his club takes care of the details and finds a way to win close games, which is exactly what happened.
The really disappointing fact about the Blackhawks losing Game 1 was they were in the contest although they didn’t play nearly as well as they could. Phoenix was the better club for the majority of the night, but mostly because not enough Blackhawks showed up with an effective full-time effort. Joel Quenneville commented the same in his postgame interview.
Quenneville didn’t mention any names but he probably was thinking Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Sean O’Donnell and the entire fourth line were of little help. In the case of Hossa, Sharp, and Oduya, their performances could be categorized as simply bad. There were other players like Patrick Kane, Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell who weren’t as good as they can be. A spotty team performance won’t normally be good enough when playing the hard-working Coyotes.
Tippett, in his postgame remarks, complimented his team for finding a way to win without leading goal scorer Radim Vrbata. The winger was injured early in the opening period. It has been speculated Vrbata may have suffered a concussion coming on an Andrew Shaw check. Losing Vrbata after playing only 30 seconds could have been a deciding factor. On a club that doesn’t score much, Vrbata had 35 markers, 11 more than the next highest Coyote. There hasn’t been any official word on Vrbata’s injury status other than to list him as day to day.
The Blackhawks didn’t take care of the details. It appeared poor shift changes caused the Hawks problems on the first two Coyote tallies. Unfortunately, some old Blackhawks bad habits of turning the puck over in their own zone happened too often. Then the follow up was to get mesmerized by the puck and chase the Coyotes, which also happened often.
Although the Hawks had 45 shots on goal, there wasn’t enough traffic in front of Smith. The game-tying goal by Brent Seabrook was off a goal mouth battle but the same effort wasn’t there most of the night. Throughout the middle frame and in much of the third period the Coyotes outworked the Blackhawks.
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