After two games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, it appears that this series is shaping up as a bonanza for bartenders and babysitters.
In yet another bit of masterpiece theater requiring curtain calls, the Boston Bruins stunned the Blackhawks, 2-1, on a goal by Daniel Paille “only” 13:48 into sudden death Saturday night. At least Game 2 did not threaten to conclude Sunday morning. This was a speed drill compared with Game 1, but we are receiving clear messages from either side.
The difference between Bruins and Blackhawks is so marginal, it might feel as though, after a champion emerges, that we have observed not a best-of-seven tournament but something more like, oh, a best-of-13.
The National Hockey League promised fans it would make them forget the short season, and the plan appears to have merit. The latest a Final ever extended was to June 24 in 1995, also following a winter tiff between management and labor. The New Jersey Devils swept the Detroit Red Wings in that series, though.
Neither the Bruins nor Blackhawks seem destined to make quick work of each other, and just because a potential Game 7 is scheduled for June 26 doesn’t mean Game 7 will end on June 26, does it?
Corey Crawford spoke for all of us without uttering a word late in the third period. Upon smothering the puck, the Blackhawks goaltender just lay on his back in the crease, staring at the ceiling while on horizontal hold as if to enjoy a moment of rest without spending Head Coach Joel Quenneville’s time out.
Shortly thereafter, a fourth period commenced to resolve a stalemate. As in the opener, the Bruins manufactured more and better opportunities. But, whereas momentum brought the visitors little joy in Game 1, they were rewarded for seizing control of Game 2 when Paille’s drive beat Crawford inside the post on his left.
The prospect of the Bruins seizing momentum or a United Center split did not register with another sellout crowd during the opening hour or so, because the Blackhawks organized repeated raids on Tuukka Rask, Boston’s goaltender. One never paid much attention to the theory that the Bruins would be shaken and demoralized by Game 1. But they began Game 2 with their gearshift stuck in reverse. The Blackhawks outshot their guests 19-4 for 20 minutes and perhaps the fact that they grabbed only a 1-0 lead was a harbinger.
Patrick Kane had two whacks in close and Michal Rozsival another before Patrick Sharp gathered the puck, turned around in the right circle, then beat Rask, who did not have a stick but was wearing Michal Handzus. Claude Julien, the bereaved coach, implored referees to think goalie interference.
The Blackhawks almost doubled their pleasure minutes later, but officials said no, then went to eyes in the sky. Normally that entails dialing up Toronto. But this is the Final and Toronto was here, so to speak. And the ruling stood. No goal.
Still, the mood was jolly in the building. During a pause in first period action, Jonathan Toews was shown on the giant screen, winner of the Frank Selke hardware as best defensive forward in the NHL. Then, another video was appropriated for a golden oldie, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Andy Williams never could have imagined his Christmas favorite would become a hockey song.
And frankly, Blackhawks fans could not have guessed that their heroes would lose this game. But the Bruins hung around, gathered themselves, and watched the home team fritter away three more power plays by being stagnant instead of mobile. When Boston’s Chris Kelly banged in the tying puck at 14:58 of the second period, a disturbing possibility tiptoed around the United Center.
Could the Bruins, even with injured Nathan Horton back and healthy in their lineup, actually steal a victory after expressing interest in such an outcome with such tardiness? Ah, it is so convenient to cultivate selective amnesia and forget that the Bruins have been in far worse predicaments than Saturday night’s.
For a second consecutive game, the extra time was extra energetic. In one rush, Jaromir Jagr sashayed in with eyes bulging like beacons. Not him again! In the 1992 Final, the Blackhawks led Game 1 at Pittsburgh, 3-0 and 4-1, before the Penguins rallied to win. Jagr scored a goal that Mario Lemieux said was the best he’d ever seen. Saturday night, Jagr could not solve Crawford or the metal beside him.
But the Bruins kept on keeping on. They almost received a power play eight minutes in when Nick Leddy was implicated in a delay of game. However, the stripes concluded the puck had grazed Paille. When Paille got another touch, there was no doubt. The Bruins streamed onto the ice, feeling like overtime sensations.