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Shaw's physicality an antidote to Bruins' game plan

by Corey Masisak / Chicago Blackhawks
Bill Smith / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has proven time and again during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs that he isn't afraid to tinker with his forward lines until he finds something he likes.

The Blackhawks were trailing the Boston Bruins by two goals in the third period of Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final when Quenneville sent Andrew Shaw, Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell over the boards together as a trio for the first time. Seconds later the Blackhawks had scored, and those three guys spent much of the rest of a three-overtime classic as an effective line in a 4-3 victory. Bolland scored to ignite the comeback; Shaw ended it at 12:08 of the third overtime.

"[Jonathan] Toews and those type of guys — they're playing against [opponents'] top D," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said. "There's not a lot of space. The checking guys, Shaw and Bickell, those guys have been great for us all year and all playoffs."

Quenneville inserted Brandon Bollig into the lineup in place of Viktor Stalberg, and that was interpreted as a move to add toughness and physical play for the Blackhawks. Shaw, Bolland and Bickell are also players who don't shy away from physical confrontations, and they proved in Game 1 to be the answer to the Bruins' abrasive style of play.

Shaw has been a mainstay on the third line during the postseason, but Bickell had been promoted to top-six duty because of his offensive explosion during this postseason. Bolland began the playoffs sidelined with a groin injury, but he has spent most of his time on the fourth line since returning to the lineup.

Bickell's five-game point streak came to an end, but he was great along the boards in this game, delivering nine hits and winning puck battles in all three zones. Bolland, a go-to guy for the Blackhawks in past playoffs, had just one point thus far in this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs before scoring a goal to make it 3-2 and then assisting on the game-winner.

Shaw set up Bolland's goal by intercepting a Boston pass in the neutral zone. He transitioned the other way, and after skating toward the right wing sent a perfect pass back to the left side to Bolland for a one-timer exactly eight minutes into the third period.

As this contest progressed past the 100-minute mark, both teams were struggling to generate quality chances. Bickell knocked Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg off the puck along the right wall, and Bolland tipped a Michal Rozsival point shot, but it was going to miss the net. Shaw, however, was in the right place near the crease, and the puck glanced off his body and into the net.

"We knew it wasn't going to be pretty at that point," Shaw said. "You could tell both teams were physically exhausted. We've preached it -- go to the net, you'll find a way to get a greasy goal. We did a heck of a job of it there in the third overtime."

Shaw also finished the game with nine hits. He had a couple of notable confrontations with Boston captain Zdeno Chara, who is officially 11 inches taller and 75 pounds heavier.

"I don't know," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said when asked if Shaw is really 5-foot-10. "He's got pretty long arms, actually. He's a battler out there, and we're glad to have him on our side."

At one point early in the game, Shaw tried to skate to the edge of the crease in front of Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask, but Chara shoved him repeatedly and then turned to an official to complain.

That is definitely part of Shaw's game; Bolland's too. Bickell brought the muscle to the line, while those guys were generally making things uncomfortable for the Bruins.

"[Chara] is a big boy," Shaw said. "He's strong. A good battle in front of the net with him there -- I think I held my own. He's a great player, logs a lot of minutes. Got to get on him and try to tire him out as much as we can."

Shaw later drew a penalty on Chara in a similar situation. Shaw did not want to cede position in front of Rask, and earned a large stick in the throat for his effort.

The Blackhawks did not score on the power play, but Boston coach Claude Julien noted that after that penalty -- the third in succession against the Bruins -- Chicago seemed to get the better of the play.

"I think you could ask players on other teams and they'll tell you that he's not the type of guy that they like to play against," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said of Shaw. "But that's what we love about him. We love having a guy like that on our team. He's not afraid. You saw him going up against Chara. Probably the guy on our team that got up against him the most, hit him. Stirred him up a little bit, drew a penalty. [He] scored a huge goal, unbelievable goal, for anybody to score just going to the net -- doesn't matter how it goes in."

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