Did anyone expect Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals to end with a 6-5 score? Certainly not me. The seesaw affair bounced the Blackhawks' way Saturday, as they took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven championship series with the Philadelphia Flyers.
What a back-and-forth game: Philadelphia scored first. Then, the Hawks came back with two goals to go up 2-1. The Flyers answered with two goals to take a 3-2 lead to the first intermission. The Hawks tied it early in the second. Then, Philadelphia went up 4-3. The Hawks came back to go up 5-4. The Flyers scored late in the second to make it 5-5. Finally, Hawks winger Tomas Kopecky (pictured) scored at 8:25 of the third period to give the Hawks the deciding goal. Phew. Did you catch all that?
I stated in my series preview that I thought secondary scoring would be key. It's not always the top lines that decide the outcome. In fact, the top lines for both the Hawks and Flyers were subpar in every way in this Game 1.
For the Hawks, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Dustin Byfuglien were all held off the scoresheet and posted a collective minus-9 rating. The Flyers' top unit of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne also failed to score and were a collective minus-7.
Both teams got great play out of their second lines. For the Hawks, Patrick Sharp, Troy Brouwer and Marian Hossa accounted for three goals. Brouwer scored twice, both goals coming on sweet passes from Hossa, who again played brilliantly despite not scoring a goal. Sharp also scored.
The Flyers No. 2 line was pretty damn good, too, with Danny Briere (1 goal, 3 assists) enjoying a four-point night and Scott Hartnell adding a goal and two assists.
The difference turned out to be the Hawks' third line, which has been so good in all three zones throughout these playoffs. Dave Bolland, Kris Versteeg and Kopecky each finished with a goal and an assist. Bolland was plus-3. Versteeg and Kopecky were both plus-2.
The normal left wing on that third line, Andrew Ladd, missed Game 1 with an undisclosed injury. Kopecky stepped in despite not having played since Game 5 of the Vancouver series and provided one of the biggest Hawk goals of the playoffs.
All in all, I'd say the week-long wait for this series to start was worth it. What a great night of hockey. I'm looking forward to Game 2, which will be played Monday night at the United Center. We'll see if the Hawks can protect home ice one more time.