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MORRISSEY: After dreary start at strangely sedate United Center, Blackhawks, fans turn it up

DustPenner Michal Handzus Mike Richards

Dustin Penner, Michal Handzus, Mike Richards

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GAME 1

at Hawks 2

Kings 1

GAME 2

7 p.m. Sunday
at Hawks, NBCSN

GAME 3

8 p.m. Tuesday
at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 4

8 p.m. Thursday
at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 5 if necessary

7 p.m. Saturday
at Hawks, Ch. 5

GAME 6 if necessary

8 p.m. June 10
at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 7 if necessary

TBD June 12
at Hawks, NBCSN

Updated: July 3, 2013 7:04AM



The crowd at the United Center apparently was under the impression that quiet hours were in effect after 4 p.m. Saturday. It was either that or fans had agreed to a mass induced coma for reasons known only to them.

This was the first period Saturday, and the Madhouse on Madison had turned into the Perfectly Sedate House on Madison or, if you prefer, the House that Snored.

The Blackhawks weren’t helping matters much in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. They were putting shot after weak shot on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who flicked pucks away like a cow tail shooing flies. Los Angeles had two shots on net in the period to the Hawks’ 17 yet led 1-0.

Maybe everybody had a Game 7 hangover from the semis, Hawks and Hawks fans alike. Maybe being taken to the limit by the Red Wings in the conference semifinals had taken a cosmic toll on the local populace, and what was happening — or not happening — was simply the logical outcome of that.

Or not.

“I thought it was just the opposite,’’ Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. “I thought we came out flying. Sometimes after two teams play in a Game 7 [including the Kings], maybe Game 1 is not going to be as intense, but I thought it was a pretty intense game, especially from the outset. It seemed like both teams were moving fast.’’

Let’s agree that everybody woke up in the second period, when the Hawks twice beat Quick on the way to a 2-1 victory. Game 2 is Sunday at 7 p.m., meaning there’s no rest for the weary. Is this where a Hawk tells me the team isn’t tired?

“We played a great game,’’ said goalie Corey Crawford, who was great himself. “Our transition, defense to offense, was great — so quick. Caught them flatfooted a couple of times, I think.’’

The Hawks got back into the game with some second-period help from the person they least expected to come bearing gifts — Quick, the all-world goalie. Johnny Oduya took a hard slap shot from the left side. Quick stopped it but put the puck in the one place you shouldn’t — in the slot. Patrick Sharp was there to clean up. It was another reminder that only good things can happen if you continue to shoot pucks at a goalie. It’s a lesson too many hockey players forget.

“It might make him tired,’’ Kane said of putting constant pressure on Quick. “Maybe he lets one in that he shouldn’t. I think that’s definitely the recipe — get pucks at him and try to go to the net and maybe pick up some rebounds.’’

Hossa’s goal woke up the sleepy United Center. It was as if someone had taken a match to a fuse. Look, it’s hard to keep up the level of emotion Chicago had during the Detroit series. There has to be a comedown at some point, has to be a bottom to a sugar buzz. The amazing thing is that the Hawks are only halfway to their goal. But telling people to pace themselves emotionally is futile.

The Hawks went up 2-1 later in the second period when Hossa and Jonathan Toews did an excellent job of clearing out space in front of the Kings’ net. The result was a Hossa redirect of a Duncan Keith shot to give the Hawks a lead they’d never relinquish.

The pregame scouting report, that the Kings were the bigger, badder team, didn’t quite hold up. It doesn’t mean they won’t be for the rest of the series, but it means that in Game 1, the Hawks held up just fine physically. Dave Bolland put a hit on the Kings’ Mike Richards in the third period that had Richards looking for a truck and a license-plate number. Bolland might be looking at a fine or a suspension for the hit.

“It’s a hard-hitting game,’’ he said.

Crawford was excellent again. His mostly non-eventful first period was followed by 12 saves in the second period and eight in the third. But it was an effort for him to maintain keen attention in the opening 20 minutes. He got beat in the first when Bolland’s clearing attempt went right onto the stick of Justin Williams.

“I was just trying to stay in it, stay focused and be ready for the first shot,’’ Crawford said.

It took almost 12 minutes for that first shot to come. It took even longer for the crowd to come around. Better late than never.



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