The Stanley Cup Finals got off to start that gave viewers both thrills and bleary eyes by the time it was over. In the end, the Chicago Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third period, tied the game and then went into the third overtime to beat the Boston Bruins in Game 1.
Boston’s Milan Lucic scored goals in both the first and second periods, each time assisted by David Krejci, the center whose been a point machine for the Bruins. When Patrice Bergeron scored on the power play with 14 minutes left in the game, the Bruins had a 3-1 lead and simply needed to let their defense carry them home.
But it took Chicago only half the remaining time to even the score up, getting goals from Dave Bolland defenseman Johnny Oduya to tie the score. Andrew Shaw assisted on one of them, and then as the night turned into morning, it was Shaw who lit the lamp for the game-winner.
CHICAGO CREATES ITS BREAKS
I want to focus on Oduya’s game-tying goal because I feel like it’s a microcosm of the game. It was a shot that came from deep and it caught the skate of Boston defenseman Andrew Ference. On its face, that’s a lucky play. But it’s a lucky play that came after sustained attack by Chicago, who got 31 shots over the last two periods alone. The good things the Blackhawks did were not by themselves, the primary cause of their win, but they created a context where it just seemed like Chicago had control of the ice.
An example of this is shot distribution. Chicago got its most important scorers involved in the offense. Patrick Sharp took eight shots, Marian Hossa let ten fly, and Patrick Kane attacked the net seven times. None of the stars scored, and only Hossa even had an assist. If you look at it on the surface, you might say that Brandon Saad, Bolland, Oduya and Shaw aren’t going to beat Boston four times, and you’d be right. But if Chicago’s best players keep taking a good chunk of the shots, then the positive byproducts will be there.
Furthermore, Chicago controlled the flow of play. Boston needs to create a grinding game where the teams are under 30 shots. The Blackhawks took 39 in regulation. The Bruins had only 25. Boston played pretty well in the first two overtimes, but couldn’t cash in. In either case though, their opportunity to close was clearly the third period and you can’t give a quality offensive team 16 shots in a period—and it seemed like more, given how much Chicago controlled the puck.
POSITIVES FOR BOSTON
It’s been a tough postseason for Bruin center Tyler Seguin, but he was very aggressive in this game. He took eight shots and had a couple good cracks during the overtime sessions. If he stays active, he’ll get his goals. Or if he doesn’t, you can at least just tip your hat to the goalie. On a similar note, Bergeron and Krejci were involved. Together, they join with Seguin to form an offense that’s been center-oriented all year, and it was good to see them all active.
Boston can also look at the fact that they were not able to force Chicago into a Bruin style, yet it still took the Blackhawks into triple OT to get the win. As a Bruins fan I have a hard time getting past the whole two-goal lead with 14 minutes left, and still consider that the biggest story. But there’s no denying that Boston’s players can tell themselves that if the game is this tight playing a Blackhawk style, what it might be at a Bruin pace. Now the question is whether Boston can dictate that tempo in Game 2.
Game 2 goes Saturday night, again from Chicago (8 PM ET, NBC Sports Network). TheSportsNotebook’s NHL analysis comes back Sunday morning to sort it all out again.