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Between the Dots: The Marathon on Madison St.

by Bob Verdi / Chicago Blackhawks
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Chicago might as well be closed on Thursday. Nobody is going to get anything done, especially the 22,110 who attended the Marathon on Madison Street. They will be absolutely useless, if they even report to the office, and should they bother, only one subject shall be discussed.

Blackhawks 4, Boston Bruins 3, in what came close to being two of the best Stanley Cup Final openers you ever witnessed on two different days. When Andrew Shaw redirected a drive by Michal Rozsival for the winning goal at 12:08 of the third overtime, it was still Wednesday, but exactly one minute to midnight.

This wasn’t a game, it was a novel. The Blackhawks were down 3-1 after the Bruins pounced on a penalty for Patrice Bergeron’s power-play goal 6:09 into the third period. Then, on an evening of seismic mood and momentum swings, the Blackhawks came on like that derecho. There was electricity inside the United Center, and also outside.

But when Dave Bolland scored, then Johnny Oduya tied the match 3-3 at 12:14, the fun had just begun. A gentleman below the press box wondered: if they stop beer sales in the middle of the third period, might they resume beer sales in the middle of the sixth? Or will it be waffles?

Crazy stuff followed. In the first overtime, the Blackhawks survived a penalty for too many men on the ice largely because of Corey Crawford, who seemed so confident that he tried a trick with his team shorthanded. He lost his stick, just to add a bit of drama. Remarkably, the Blackhawks were again caught with too many men on the ice at 19:07 of the second overtime that almost ended when a puck clanked off the pipe to Crawford’s left.

The Blackhawks outshot the Bruins 63-54, but it surely appeared as though Crawford was under more duress than Tuukka Rask, the netminder who surrendered just two goals in an entire series against Pittsburgh. These five hours of hard labor between two Original Six franchises that had not seen each other forever did serve as a demystifiying exercise for either side. The Bruins also possess some offensive weapons; this is not a group of plodding lumberjacks. But the Blackhawks might have surprised yet another opponent with a willingness to partake of this evening’s physical motif.

The Blackhawks’ longest playoff game in history remains 53:50 in 1931, but two of the team’s ambassadors—Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita—might liken Wednesday night’s to a triple overtime landmark in 1961. Murray Balfour scored at 52:12 in Game 3 at the Stadium against Montreal, and the Blackhawks eventually spoiled the Canadiens’ quest for their sixth straight Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks went on to win it in Detroit. It would surprise nobody if Wednesday night’s affair is one of multiple overtimes in this series, but the Bruins lost more than a game. Nathan Horton, an important player, left with an injury. Depth could become a significant factor the next two weeks, especially if these two juggernauts attempt to make everybody forget the shortened regular season with postseason games that refuse to end reasonably. Speaking of depth: Brandon Saad, rookie, registered his first playoff goal to halve Chicago’s problem to 2-1 early in the second period. That would be the first second period.

Sometimes, mega-happenings such as a Super Bowl or World Series will find an inordinate number of new faces in the stands—many in fancy attire, some daring to carry rule books. But the dreaded corporate takeover did not seem in evidence Wednesday night, either to the eyes or ears. The building was louder than Don Cherry’s outfit, and if millionaires had seized all the tickets to the lower bowl or 100 Level, they must have borrowed sweaters from diehard fans who were in those seats starting January.

President Obama tweeted a good luck message to his hometown hockey team before the puck drop, as did Mayor Emanuel. Guests included Tom Thibodeau, Bulls coach, who might have been measuring Zdeno Chara for a uniform.

I don’t want to say the Bruins defenseman has a freaky wingspan, but if he showed up at O’Hare Wednesday night and extended his arms, he would have been delayed or cancelled by that derecho.

One other point of interest: the Detroit Red Wings looked tired for their playoff opener here against the Blackhawks. The Los Angeles Kings also seemed sluggish in their playoff opener here against the Blackhawks. The Boston Bruins did not look tired at the start, or at the end, or in between. Now, they are properly exhausted, sleeping off some glorious chances against Crawford that went for naught, or were somehow denied.

We might have asked this earlier in the postseason: how is that Blackhawks’ goalkeeping "controversy" shaking out?

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