Blackhawks’ depth played big role in Game 1 victory
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com May 1, 2013 8:52PM
Chicago Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw left, Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell (29) celebrate Bickell's game winning goal against the Minnesota Wild in overtime of Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series Tuesday, April 30, 2013, in Chicago. The Blackhawks defeated the Wild 2-1. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Updated: June 3, 2013 3:44PM
Rotations tend to shrink in the postseason, particularly in the NBA and baseball. But the grind of a Stanley Cup playoff series makes depth invaluable in hockey and the Blackhawks already are showing theirs off.
Deep into the first overtime against the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series, the Blackhawks’ third line of Andrew Shaw, Viktor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell and their No. 3 defensive pairing of Johnny Oduya and Michal Roszival applied a master’s stroke to a finger-painting to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 victory and a 1-0 series lead.
Shaw’s big hit behind the Hawks’ net led to Oduya’s pinpoint flip pass off the glass to a streaking Stalberg, who deftly passed to Bickell for the winning goal. The Blackhawks’ top two lines are world-class. But in a 1-against-8 series the Wild are intent on mucking up, that might end up being the prettiest goal of all.
‘‘That line was doing everything for us,’’ Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘They were hitting, creating chances, scoring. They were setting the tone for everybody else. The way they played is the way we want all four lines to bring it.
‘‘We all know we had a slow start and got better as we went along. We’ll be ready to lay the same way those three did [in Game 2 on Friday night].’’
After two years of struggling to find the right combinations to support their heralded core, the Blackhawks have the depth and versatility to rival their 2010 Stanley Cup championship team. Even then, it took a series or two for Kris Versteeg, Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, Troy Brouwer and Co. to exert their influence.
But in Game 1 of the opening series it already made a difference. Roszival (27:11) and Oduya (26:47) led the Hawks in ice time, ahead of stars Duncan Keith (25:17) and Brent Seabrook (25:37). The Wild, on the other hand, rode Norris Trophy candidate Ryan Suter for all they could. Suter played 41:08 — an admirable night of work, but a difficult pace to sustain over five, six or seven games.
‘‘[Suter] was unbelievable,’’ Seabrook said. ‘‘He’s obviously a key to their team. We saw the stat sheet after the game and 41 minutes — it’s unbelievable. Last year Dunc and I played 30 minutes [in an overtime game] and it felt like a lot — 41 ... was pretty crazy.’’
The Hawks are looking forward to countering Suter’s excellence with their depth — right down to defenders Oduya and Roszival and their fourth line of Michael Frolik, Marcus Kruger and Brandon Bollig.
‘‘He’s a tremendous defenseman. There aren’t many guys around that can do that,’’ Oduya said. ‘‘It’s something obviously we see, too. We want to try and force him to make as many tough plays as possible and wear him down. That’s tough to do. But ... we have enough forwards to keep him busy. If we keep playing our game eventually we’ll break through.’’