Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville hinted Sunday at a possible lineup change for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.
When asked if Viktor Stalberg could play Monday night, Quenneville responded, “He could play.” When other coaches say something like that, it is usually them trying to be coy about their plans. Quenneville’s track record suggests that “could play” is very often code for “will play.”
Stalberg was a healthy scratch for the first two games of the Cup Final. It was the second time he’s been scratched during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He was also held out of the lineup in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings.
While Bryan Bickell has elevated his stock as a pending unrestricted free agent with a great postseason, Stalberg, also a pending UFA, has no goals and three points in 15 playoff games. He had nine goals and 23 points in 47 games as a fixture on the team’s third line.
Brandon Bollig has played in Stalberg’s place the past two games. Quenneville commended his play after both contests. He had nine hits in Game 1, but it was Bollig’s turnover along the wall in his own end that led to the game-winning goal for the Bruins in Game 2.
“I thought he was fine,” Quenneville said of Bollig after a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 2 on Saturday night. “I thought he had two good games. That line, didn't get them out there much in overtime. Every time they were out there, they were a threat to score, had a lot of offensive zone time. They got the one shift, around the wall, we didn't get there in time. Bang, bang.”
While Bollig is a big, physical player, Stalberg is one of the swiftest-skating members of the Blackhawks, and Quenneville felt his team “stopped skating” after the first period in Game 2. Stalberg would be expected to add a jolt of speed to counter the patient, physical Bruins.