History repeating itself: Bruins frustrate and take down Chicago in Game 3
Heading into Monday night’s Game 3, both the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins had already shown their strengths in the Stanley Cup Final. Still, it already seems like one of the toughest, and most exhausting series of all time.
Game 1 was a triple overtime thriller for Chicago. Still, it came after going down in the first period to a Milan Lucic goal, the result of poor defensive zone coverage by Chicago. Not a good beginning. It got even worse when Lucic scored again in the first minute of the second period. The Blackhawks’ ability to leave Lucic alone in the slot was the only thing improving for them at that point. On both goals, the Blackhawks looked like they were halfheartedly trying to stop the Bruins’ breakout. Shortly thereafter, however, the Bruins started getting a taste of their own medicine as Chicago started creating turnovers in the offensive zone–leading to an absolutely brilliant goal by Brandon Saad that surprised Tuukka Rask. The Bruins would score again–a power play goal from Patrice Bergeron–but Chicago depth guys like Dave Bolland and Johnny Oduya would seal the tie game that would last into three overtimes.
Then, it would be a double-deflection goal–a Michal Rozsival slapper that went off of both Bolland and Andrew Shaw’s leg to find the net behind Rask. It wasn’t pretty. But it was still, definitely, a Chicago Blackhawks goal. It got lots of people involved. It was the result of hard work down low by bottom-six forwards. It was, in short, a moment that encapsulated what makes the Blackhawks a great team this season; for all of their high-flying offense, they win games by playing simple hockey.
On the other hand, Game 2 was the Bruins’ game through and through. Chicago scored first about midway through the first period after a mad scramble around Rask. The puck popped free onto the stick of Patrick Sharp, who had a perfectly placed shot to find the net behind the goalie and what felt like twenty guys in the crease. Instead of letting that get to them, of course, the Bruins hung around. They forced a turnover in the second period while Chicago was trying to exit their own zone–textbook Bruins peskiness. This culminated in a bit of a scramble around Crawford, and Chris Kelly parked by the side of the net for the tap-in to tie the game.
Still, as always, the Bruins hung around. There was no scoring to be had in the first period. Chicago had put 19 shots on net in the first period, but through the third period and the first 13:48 of overtime, the Bruins held them to only 11 total. The way the Bruins were playing, you could tell they were going to get a break. To get the overtime winner, they forced yet another turnover as Chicago was trying to get the puck out of the zone to safety. The play developed quickly enough that Daniel Paille was able to stay wide open and rocket one past Crawford.
As expected, the two teams have been so even, because they are so different.
And in Game 3, everything figured to be a little different. Boston is missing Nathan Horton, but Marian Hossa as a surprise scratch for the Blackhawks seemed to tick a similar box in Joel Quenneville’s roster. And it’s obvious what team has the advantage when offensive firepower is downgraded: the Boston Bruins. The Bruins got the first goal of the game at the beginning of the second period–and a power play insurance goal by Patrice Bergeron before the period was over. While Chicago had two power play opportunities in the third period to try to even the score, they seemed as frustrated as any Bruins opponent has been these playoffs, by both the Bruins hardy defensive coverage (read: 2-3 trap), and a little something called “posts.” Chicago failed to score a single goal, the Bruins having taken down yet another
If Chicago plans on evening the series on enemy ice, they will need to do the following things in Game 4:
- Score first. They didn’t score first in the game they won, but Boston has tightened up their style and will no longer have game one nerves. They will also be at home still.
- Keep the Bruins’ system guessing by rushing the puck quickly and fearlessly. Speed and determination is the only thing that can challenge their puck retrieval.
- Protect Corey Crawford with team defense. Paille’s goal could have been avoided–but his defensemen did little to cover him. Even as Paille ripped his shot, another Bruin was open for a pass (or rebound) in the opposite circle. Chicago got caught watching the Bruins at work on that goal. It showed.
- Win faceoffs. The Bruins won 71% of all draws.
Does any of this sound familiar? The Penguins could have done all of these things–and they got swept because they didn’t.
And if the Bruins want the Cup, they’ll play the exact same way. It almost seems like the close games, the low scoring, plays right into the Bruins’ hands. The opposing team still thinks they’re in it–and eventually goes mad thinking that they can just get one to break the whole thing open. But then they don’t. And the Bruins win.
It was perfect from Boston’s standpoint. Whether they can do it two more times is still a mystery.