The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins may have drawn first blood in the opening games of their respective conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. But Game 2 saw Chicago and Boston simply open up the veins of their opponents and watch them bleed out, as each struck early and often for victories that put them in commanding 2-0 series leads.
Home ice advantage and a load of offensive talent doesn’t help much when your goalie is a sieve. Tomas Vokoun has come down to earth and Boston torched the Penguin netminder for four goals in the first period. Brad Marchand scored twice, Nathan Horton had a goal and an assist, and David Krejci continued his extraordinary postseason run with a goal of his own. Boston added two goals in the final period for a 6-1 win.
The shot totals were close on the surface, 29-27 for Boston, but it was 13-6 in the decisive first period. Inexplicably, the Penguins did not come out as the aggressor in front of their home fans and facing an important, albeit not “must-win” game.
The fact Pittsburgh never generated any real heat on Boston goalie Tuuka Raask until the third period, when they got 13 shots, tells me that the Bruin coaching staff is getting ahead of their counterparts in controlling the flow of play. Pittsburgh has too much talent to see their offense just go quiet—not in terms of scoring goals – which can fluctuate up and down — but in terms of aggressiveness and attempts.
It’s either a case of getting outcoached or a lot of talented players just not being “into the moment.” Since the latter is a shot at someone’s athletic character, while the X’s and O’s is a more benign critique, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to the latter.
Both of these teams can win on the road though, so I fully expect to Pittsburgh come out fighting in Game 3. The issue is going to be whether their goaltending is good enough. I’ve contended all year long that it is not. I don’t know if I’m so down on the Pens goalies to suggest they’ll get swept, but this is a weakness that’s tough to hide this deep in the playoffs.
Boston’s taking advantage of a shaky Pittsburgh defense was impressive. Chicago’s blitzing of the game’s hottest goalie was positively dazzling. The Blackhawks didn’t just beat Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick, they chased him from the game, en route to a 4-2 victory on home ice.
Chicago did it with the best players assisting the second tier. Names like Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane were in the scoring column, but on the assist side of the ledger. Meanwhile, the lamp was being lit by guys like Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell, both vital contributors throughout the playoffs. Brent Seabrook, known to the nation as the man who put in the Game 7 OT winner against Detroit, scored the second goal of this game.
It’s not often you see good offense beat a top defense and goalie, but that’s what happened here. Even though Chicago only got 26 shots, they simply buried Quick.
Amidst all this, there are positive signs for Los Angeles. Jeff Carter, their best offensive player and quiet since the first round, stepped it up with five shots on net and scored a goal. Dustin Penner, silent the entire postseason, had an assist. Quick isn’t going to play this badly again, and if Los Angeles can keep Carter and Penner rolling and active, they can make this a series again as the action shifts to the West Coast tonight.
It’s Chicago-Los Angeles resuming tonight from the Staples Center (9 PM ET) and tomorrow, Pittsburgh-Boston heads to the Garden for an 8 PM ET puck drop. Both games will be on the NBC Sports Network. TheSportsNotebook’s NHL analysis comes back on Thursday to shake out the events of each Game 3.