Three Stars: Sharp, Keith Shine as Hawks Take 1-0 Lead

Quick's 34 saves not enough as Hawks win fourth straight game

Blackhawks Game 1 Win
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It took a while, but the Chicago Blackhawks finally got to Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, as Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa both scored in the second period to lift the Hawks to a 2-1 victory Saturday and take a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Justin Williams scored the lone goal for the Kings, and Corey Crawford made 21 saves to help the Hawks to their fourth straight win.

We’ll have plenty of reaction to the series’ opening game, as well as previews of Game 2, tomorrow on the blog, but for now, here were Saturday’s Three Stars:

Third Star: Bryan Bickell

Bickell saw time on both the first and third lines in this game, but he excelled on both and was a huge factor in the Hawks’ establishing a dominant tone in Game 1.

Bickell didn’t score a goal in the game, but he did have five shots on goal, including one that Quick barely got a glove on, and also had an assist on offense. Defensively he was just as good, with six hits and a takeaway in 17:10 of ice time in the contest.

We’ve been talking often about Bickell’s upcoming free agency and the big contract he is eventually going to get, and he just keeps proving game after game what teams can expect of him if he is to leave the Blackhawks after the playoffs.

Second Star: Duncan Keith

Brent Seabrook looked excellent throughout Game 1, but at least some of the credit for that, as well as the victory, has to go to Keith.

Keith not only was dominant offensively, with five shots on goal and an assist in the game, but he also blocked two shots and had several key defensive plays that kept the Kings at bay.

In the second period, the Kings were setting up a tremendous scoring chance in front of Crawford when Keith flashed a quick stick along the ice to pick off a cross-ice pass and stifled the opportunity. He also had a good play in the third, as the Kings fired a puck off of Crawford’s pads that settled in the crease. Rather than take a stab at it and risk missing, Keith had the awareness to know that no King was close enough to get the puck, so he collected it and shot it down ice.

The play resulted in an icing, but the play was yet another illustration of just how effective Keith has been on the ice. The 2011-12 version of Keith may have been bad, but the 2013 edition has been nothing short of exceptional.

First Star: Patrick Sharp

Quick was stopping every shot he faced in the first period and a half of the hockey game. The reasons for this were legion, with the Hawks firing tons of shots from low-percentage areas being one of the principal ones, and they also weren’t getting much traffic in front of the net to collect the occasional rebound.

Sharp took note of that, and rushed the net hard on his second period goal. Following a point shot by Johnny Oduya, the puck bounced out from the crease, and a rushing Sharp grabbed the bouncing puck and popped the shot home to tie the game for the Hawks.

Not only did Sharp grab the league lead in playoff goals once again, but he also proved to his teammates that Quick wasn’t unbeatable, and the surge of confidence was noticeable. He has been a tremendous asset in these playoffs, and without him, the Hawks may never have broken through against Quick in this one.

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