It’s an advantage every team plays to get. For the Chicago Blackhawks, a series of events — i.e., teams above them losing — has given them the home-ice edge for the second consecutive series.
And they have taken full advantage of that advantage.
The Blackhawks improved to 7-0 at the United Center this postseason after taking a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday afternoon. It’s an impressive record for the Blackhawks, who lost just two postseason games here last spring — Game 2 of their second-round series vs. the Detroit Red Wings and Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final vs. the Boston Bruins.
[MORE: Blackhawks down Kings in Game 1]
So what is it about this place for the Blackhawks?
“I’m not really sure,” said Brandon Saad, who had a power-play goal and an assist on Sunday. “I think we come out flying at home and we play with that pace, and Corey (Crawford) did a great job tonight. So it was a pretty close game and, for some reason, with our fans, we seem to have success.”
The raucous atmosphere doesn’t hurt, although it was more pensive in the second period when the Blackhawks were disallowed one goal and were outshot 17-6 by a Kings group that showed no tiring effects of two seven-round series. A Duncan Keith goal midway through the second, however, brought the crowd back into it and put the Blackhawks back on top 2-1, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“The crowd’s been unbelievable; obviously that helps a lot,” said Nick Leddy, whose shot Saad redirected on the first-period power play. “It helps out our momentum, and momentum is huge in the playoffs.”
Things have gone well this postseason at the United Center but the Blackhawks are now playing a team that certainly threatens that. The Kings have five road victories this postseason, and that includes two series-clinching triumphs on their opponents’ ice.
The Blackhawks are happy with their victory, another one at a building that’s seen plenty of them in recent years. Their work, however, is not even close to being done.
“We had some pretty good stretches. I’m not complaining when we get a win,” Keith said. “We did a lot of things right tonight but at the same time we’re going to have to be better in a few different areas as well, because L.A. has a really good team.”