With the majority of his players making their first postseason appearance, Joel Quenneville could have guessed that there would be a learning curve. But as Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals wore on, the Hawks’ bench boss saw his team grow into a winning playoff team and more importantly, they catured the 3-2 overtime win over Calgary.
“We definitely got better as the game went on,” he said. “We had some nervous energy early. But the jitters, the excitement and the buildup going into the first playoff game… I don’t want to say [a slow start] was expected, but I definitely thought we picked up our pace as we progressed.”
Early in the game, Calgary managed to take the Hawks out of their normal rhythm with a combination of pressure in the offensive zone and a punishing physical game, and the Flames headed to the locker room at the end of the first ahead 1-0. Later on, though, the Hawks got more comfortable in the flow of the game and their blend of speed and finesse began to show.
“When you score first, you’re always going to have the advantage,” said Martin Havlat, who scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals for Chicago. “But we were patient, we stuck to our plan and our guys battled hard all the way to the end.”
“We knew that there were going to be some errors, and it was unfortunate to go down ,” said Jonathan Toews
. “But I think we all decided after the end of the first that we knew we could just go out and play and not be too nervous with the puck.
“They came at us hard but we hung in there and took hits to make plays,” Toews added. “Eventually, we started getting more shots and we had a good effort all-around.”
With both one playoff game and win now under their belts, the Blackhawks can look forward to improving their overall game to increase their 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“We might have had some nerves, but we relaxed as the game went along,” said Duncan Keith
. “It’s nice to get the Game 1 win, and it’s a huge win for us. It was huge for our confidence, but it’s going to be a new game in Game 2 and we have to come out with a good effort."