Western Conference Finals, Game 1 (5/17/09)

The Western Conference Finals are finally upon us. This afternoon the Red Wings hosted the Blackhawks in game one. This should be a very entertaining series. The Hawks have played the Wings tough all year. They’re a charismatic team with tons of young talent and great chemistry. The experience of the Red Wings should be an advantage but these youngsters play more like seasoned veterans than kids.

The Red Wings lineup was the same as the previous game. The goalies for this game were Osgood and Khabibulin.

The game started out with some good action. The play went back and forth quickly and both teams seemed to have a lot of energy.

Chicago scored first after a bad bounce surprised Osgood. The puck was behind the net and Osgood played it to Ericsson. He was rushed by Eager and ended up chipping the puck back towards the front of the net. Osgood wasn’t expecting that. Burish came quickly from behind the net and popped it between Osgood’s legs and across the goal line. That made it one to nothing Blackhawks. It was a very opportunistic play by the Hawks.

The Red Wings got on the board a few minutes later. There was a faceoff inside the Red Wings zone but Cleary stole the puck from Seabrook and was off to the races. He took it to the top of the circle and ripped a shot that went over Khabibulin’s glove hand and into the top corner of the net. It was a beautiful shot and a great individual effort by Cleary to tie the game at one.

The first period ended with the score still tied at one. It was a good period by the Red Wings. They controlled play for most of the period and outshot the Hawks 15 to 9. The only real problem was turnovers. The Red Wings had 8 giveaways and the Hawks had none according to the stats shown by NBC. That might not be exactly right, but you get the idea that the Wings were turning the puck over way too much. Luckily, the Blackhawks weren’t able to capitalize on most of those opportunities.

There was a scary incident in the second period when Eager came in along the boards to make a hit on Kronwall. He ended up flipping upside down and his skate dragged right across the throat of Burish. Luckily, he ended up with only a minor cut on his neck, but it could have been much worse.

Nearing the end of the second period the Red Wings got the puck deep in the Chicago zone. Franzen got it along the boards and took it behind the net. He made an incredible move towards the net, wrapped around with the puck and pushed it between Khabibulin’s legs into the goal. It was such a strong move by Franzen; just incredible. What a great play.

That made it two to one Red Wings and the score held until the end of the second period. Detroit was outshooting Chicago 29 to 19. Chicago had 15 blocked shots after two periods to Detroit’s three.

Early in the third period Ericsson was called for interference on Sharp. He didn’t hold him or hook him; he just got in his way. I guess it was technically interference, but it seemed like a pretty weak call.

On the power play Seabrook shot the puck from the blue line. It changed direction at least twice after hitting Red Wings sticks and then it hit Byfuglien’s stick and bounced to the side of the net. It ended up on the ice next to a wide open net and Versteeg knocked it in to tie the game at two.

A few minutes later Lebda shot one that went off Samuelsson’s foot. Samuelsson picked it up and circled with it towards the faceoff dot. He ripped it from there and got it by Khabibulin high on the glove side to take back the lead. It was a beautiful pinpoint shot by Samuelsson.

Just a few minutes after that goal, Zetterberg took the puck into the Chicago zone. He passed it across to Franzen. Franzen shot it with Cleary in front of the net. Cleary redirected it perfectly into the net. It was the second goal of the game for Cleary and it put the Wings up four to two.

For the rest of the period the Blackhawks tried to come back. They pulled the goalie with about a minute and a half left to try to pull within one. Instead Zetterberg got an empty net goal to make it five to two.

The Red Wings looked great in this game. Osgood was sharp. I was surprised that the Hawks weren’t tougher. After the way they beat the Canucks I expected them to be more of an offensive threat. It seemed to be a lot easier for the Wings to play their game against the Hawks than it was against the Ducks.

There was a bit of bad blood at the end of the game when Burish crosschecked Draper in the back. There was a scrum afterwards but nothing much came of it.

This 2-5 win brings this Western Conference Final series to 1-0 Detroit.

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