Things did not look good for the Chicago Blackhawks at the start of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning grabbed an early lead and seemed to be blocking every shot that came their way.
Despite that trapping defense, the Bolts surrendered late goals to Teuvo Teravainen and Antoine Vermette, and they found themselves trailing in the series after the Blackhawks picked up a 2-1 victory.
We’ll have plenty of coverage of this game, as well as our takes and previews ahead of Game 2 on Saturday night, but we’ll get things started with our Three Stars of Game 1.
Third Star: Duncan Keith
The Blackhawks are used to getting big defensive performances out of Keith so far in these playoffs, and he added another one to the list as he contributed on both ends of the ice in the Blackhawks’ victory.
Keith and Brent Seabrook combined to rack up a plus-19 Corsi rating, a huge boost to a team that was badly out-shot early in the game. Keith also had the primary assist on Teravainen’s game-tying goal in the third period, and that was his biggest and best moment of the evening.
On the play, Keith got the puck along the boards, and in standard fashion when the Blackhawks are trailing, he was pinching in from the point. Keith then made a really smart, veteran move as he waited for Teravainen to fill in behind him to cover the point, and he dished the puck to the Finnish star for the goal that tied the contest at 1-1.
A lot of times, the temptation is there for a player to quickly fire in a shot when trailing late in a game, but Keith’s patience and intelligence paid dividends as the Hawks tied the game up.
Second Star: Corey Crawford
In a strange world where fans somehow blamed the Lightning’s first goal on Crawford (it’s hard to imagine any goaltender in the league being able to react to a potential Steven Stamkos redirection, then be able to magically see that Alex Killorn was going to deflect in a shot from near the goal line), an appreciation for his play in the game may be hard to find.
It shouldn’t be.
Crawford was the sole reason that the Blackhawks were still competing in the game when Teravainen and Vermette unleashed their magic, and he made some huge saves to help keep his team alive. His big save on Ryan Callahan’s breakaway stands out in the third period, and he made two big successive saves on Stamkos in the second as well. Stamkos has an unreal slap shot and can locate his shot anywhere, but Crawford kicked out his leg pad and steered it aside and then stopped Stamkos on the doorstep a few minutes later to keep the deficit at one goal.
In a series where you’re never quite sure what kind of performance will be displayed in the other goal crease, Crawford’s consistency could be a key. He looked really good in Game 1, and he definitely played a huge role in the Hawks’ victory.
First Star: Teuvo Teravainen
Teravainen is only 20 years old, but we may have truly witnessed his coming out party in Game 1 of the series. Not only did the youngster score the game-tying goal late in regulation thanks to his ability to read Keith’s pinch in from the point, but he also created the game-winning goal thanks to his stellar defensive intuition.
On the play, the Lightning were attempting to clear the puck out of the zone, but J.T. Brown looked up the ice a bit too quickly. That gave Teravainen, who was positioned along the boards, an opportunity, and the youngster took it. He poke-checked the puck into the middle of the ice, and it ended up right on the waiting stick of Vermette.
The veteran took it from there, roofing a shot over Bishop’s glove and giving the Blackhawks an advantage that they wouldn’t relinquish in the victory.
There has been a lot made of whether or not the Blackhawks will struggle next season as players are shipped out due to salary cap constraints, but with Teuvo playing at this type of level, one would imagine the blow will be softened significantly. He has the tools necessary to be a great player in this league, and he displayed them for the world to see on Wednesday night.