During his Hall of Fame career, Bobby Hull would bring an already standing room only crowd to its tiptoes merely by cradling the puck and turning up ice. Now, he grabs a microphone and spreads electricity throughout an entire building.
Friday night, on the giant screen at the United Center, he moderated a taped salute to Chicago and 22,116 fans roared. Who knew that "The Golden Jet" could channel his inner John Facenda and become a golden voice?
The Blackhawks were still in their locker room, so they did not hear their beloved ambassador speak. But with some 11 o’clock lightning—a bit late for a wake-up call—they provided a bookend conclusion to Hull’s early rallying cry, scoring three third period goals to vanquish the stubborn Minnesota Wild, 5-2, in Game 1 of their second round Stanley Cup playoff joust.
This contest packed none of the ferocity that existed throughout the previous series against the St. Louis Blues, which is not to say that the visitors were in an accommodating mood. The Wild showed few ill-effects of a seven-game-plus series decided in Denver’s thin air only late Wednesday. Minnesota was not just happy to be here, although they would no doubt be happier had their radar been better and Corey Crawford not so adept when they did manage to direct shots on net instead of high or wide.
Patrick Kane, conversely, is a locksmith with stick in hand. This match was tied, 2-2, when the genius received the puck in the neutral zone. His wheels started turning, as did his legs. By the time he saw blue paint, he had skated through every Wild man on the rink, and even pondered passing off to linemate Patrick Sharp.
Instead, Kane went deep, so deep that it was logical he could not finish what he started. Then, remarkably, he lifted a backhand that elevated as if fueled by helium over the left shoulder of crouching Ilya Bryzgalov, most veteran member in Minnesota’s college of goalkeepers.
“Nobody else in this dressing room has that shot,” marveled Sharp. “He just gets the puck on his stick, and it goes straight up.”
Kane noted that he’d been working on this trick since he was age 7, a fact that father Patrick confirmed.
“Lucky,” lied No. 88, who scored again on assists from Sharp and bulldog Ben Smith to bring the Blackhawks a more comfortable lead of 4-2 late in the third. Bryan Bickell added an empty net tally to his power play goal in the first. At least a few of the Blackhawks thought it fortunate that they lost only Andrew Shaw to a lower body injury and not the game too.
Brent Seabrook piled up two more assists, Marian Hossa clicked on a power play off a nifty Brandon Saad arrangement and Crawford held the fort while the Blackhawks were outgunned, 17-3, in the second period. Sound familiar? Chants of “COR-EY! COR-EY!” did. Television replays caught Kane mouthing “SHOWTIME” after his highlight dash, but when done recreating it, he pointed toward Smith a few stalls over.
“Ben is something,” said Kane. “Great to play with. You see him fighting for a puck sometimes, you think you want to go over and help him, but he doesn’t need it. Nobody works harder.”