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Potential adjustments could change look of Game 3

Monday, 06.17.2013 / 1:24 PM / Blackhawks vs Bruins - 2013 Stanley Cup Final

By Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

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Potential adjustments could change look of Game 3
Potential adjustments could change look of Stanley Cup Final Game 3.

BOSTON -- The 2013 Stanley Cup Final is already three games old as the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks prepare for Game 3 on Monday night at TD Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

By playing the equivalent of an extra contest via parts of four overtime periods in Games 1 and 2, these two teams have provided each other with extra video to comb through as the two coaching staffs search for adjustments to make.

The series is tied, but there have been long stretches of play where either the Blackhawks or Bruins dominated. Finding a way to prolong the highs and limit the lows could be the key to claiming a championship.

With that in mind, here are five potential adjustments the Blackhawks or Bruins could make Monday night to deliver a victory and the lead in this series:

1. Stuck in the middle

The Blackhawks were rolling during the first period in Game 2, dictating the play and launching a blitzkrieg attack on Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask. When the second period began, the Bruins were able to slow them down.

Boston players said they started skating better. Chicago players said they started skating less. The answer lies somewhere in the middle, which is also the case on the ice.

It is possible the Blackhawks aren't the fastest-skating team in the League or the best at transitioning from defense to offense by passing the puck, but they are almost certainly the best at a combination of the two.

To get into the offensive zone with possession of the puck, the Blackhawks must navigate the middle of the ice -- the neutral zone -- and that is where the Bruins were able to defuse Chicago's assault after the first period in Game 2.

"The neutral zone, the way they check, defend, they're very patient in that area," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "Trying to make plays in there only plays into their favor. Let's make sure there's a purpose when we do go through the middle of the ice."

2. Changing lanes

Chicago had 30 shot attempts in the first 20 minutes of Game 2, and 19 of them were on target (more than 63 percent). In the next 40 minutes, the Blackhawks directed the puck toward the net 26 times, and Rask only had to make a save on nine of them (less than 35 percent).

Getting shots to the net was actually a problem for much of Game 1 as well for the Blackhawks. While they attempted an astounding 132 shots in just more than 112 minutes of action, less than 50 percent (63) were on target.

The Bruins have 58 blocked shots in two games, and the Blackhawks have also misfired on 41 others. Chicago has had problems generating shots on net on the power play at various times during this postseason, but it has also been an issue at even strength against Boston.

At times, the Blackhawks have been able to get the puck into the slot area, but not to the net. Other times, the puck doesn't get past the perimeter. Finding a way to turn more of the attempts into shots on goal would almost certainly lead to more second chances and better opportunities.

3. Key to Viktor-y?

After two games as a healthy scratch, Viktor Stalberg will return to the Chicago lineup. Even on a team full of swift skaters, his ability in that department stands out.

Stalberg has struggled at the offensive end during the postseason, but the Blackhawks could use his speed to help them get there and keep the puck there with more frequency. He won't be in his normal place on the third line, but expect a sufficiently motivated Stalberg to look for ways to ensure he stays in the lineup.

"I think we need some speed from him. I think we need energy. I think that he's a threat off the rush, in [the offensive] zone, defensively responsible," Quenneville said. "[With] Viktor, we're just looking for more. I think offensively, defensively, giving us some more in both those areas."

4. Early arrival

Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock likes to use the phrase "start on time," and at one point earlier this postseason came up with a new metaphor about his team being a lawnmower and needing to get the start-up process out of the way during warm-ups so they are idling at normal speed by game time.

Well, the Bruins were still fiddling with the choke during the first period of Game 2. Chicago was all over Boston in the first 20 minutes, and if it wasn't for a superb effort from Rask, it might have been a rout.

Clearly, the Bruins are going to try and avoid a repeat in the opening period of Game 3.

"I don't think our team has played a bad first period like that in a long time. I don't expect it to happen again," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We're back in our building where we have our fans. I think our guys are going to be excited about that. Nonetheless, we have to have a better start. You learn from past mistakes. That's a mistake I think our team hopefully has [learned from]. We're going to go back and play the same way.

"When we get ourselves going and push pucks forward, we finish our checks, we're willing to win races and battles, that's when we excel. That part of our game came on stronger as the game went on."

5. New dance partners

Now that the series has shifted to TD Garden, Julien will have the last change before faceoffs, and therefore more say about which forward lines match up against each other. Quenneville typically went with his Selke Trophy winner, Jonathan Toews, and top defense pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook against Boston's line featuring Selke Trophy finalist Patrice Bergeron.

Julien has said he tends to focus more on matching with his defense pairings, so Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are likely to spend a lot of time against Toews' line. That won't be much of a departure from the first two games.

Boston's coach could try to get his top line (David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic) more shifts against Chicago's bottom two lines, and don't be surprised to see the Bergeron line on the ice if one of those lines ices the puck.

"I think he makes great adjustments," Boston forward Tyler Seguin said. "You've got to give him credit, he's a great coach. He's definitely got a lot of experience at this level and in these situations. It's the players, but it's also the coaches that make the decisions."

Quote of the Day

Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.

— Senators forward Mike Hoffman when asked if his two-goal game was a good way to celebrate his 26th birthday
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