After taking the equivalent of three games to arrive at decisions in the first two games on the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins beat the Blackhawks, 2-0 in just 60 minutes Monday night, taking a 2-1 series lead.
Two potentially significant injuries developed prior to the game.
During the warm-up, Bruins’ captain Zdeno Chara collided with fellow behemoth, Milan Lucic, but Chara did start, though he left momentarily in the first period.
However, there was a major surprise as the teams came out for the opening faceoff: Marian Hossa was not in uniform for the Blackhawks. In his place was 24-year-old Ben Smith, a Boston College product, who had spent most of the season with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. There was a report that Hossa was injured by a shot during the pre-game.
Not so said Head Coach Joel Quenneville afterward. Even captain Jonathan Toews said the team “knew all day long” that Hossa might miss the game. Hossa is now listed as “day-to-day” with “an upper body injury.” The unfortunate thing: everything was so hush-hush that Ben Smith’s mother drove in from Connecticut to visit her son and left before the game because she was under the impression that he had no chance of playing.
This forced a massive restructuring of forward lines by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, including the move of Captain Jonathan Toews to left wing from center, with Marcus Kruger in the middle and Michael Frolik on the right. The latter two have spent much of the season playing on Chicago’s third and/or fourth lines.
Kaspars Daugavins took a bad penalty at 9:57 of the first, an elbow to the head of Andrew Shaw. That gave the Blackhawks a chance to take the lead by breaking their 0-15 powerplay stretch. But, Chicago did not manage a shot on Tuukka Rask with the advantage.
Shawn Thornton took a questionable roughing penalty on Andrew Shaw at 14:15. That produced some shorthanded chances for Peverly and Paille against a very shaky Blackhawks “powerplay,” which managed just one shot on goal. The first period ended 0-0, with the Bruins outshooting the Blackhawks, 11-10.
Daniel Paille broke through at 2:13 of the second period off a Chicago turnover. Paille has now figured in the last three Boston scores, with two goals and an assist. The question before the house now: will the team the scores first be the one to take the loss yet again?
The Bruins were awarded their first powerplay at 12:00 of the second when Dave Bolland crosschecked Chris Kelly from behind. Paille was pulled down by Hjalmarsson, creating 0:11 of a 5-on-3 for the Bruins, shortly after the first penalty expired, Patrice Bergeron scored from Crawford’s right side on an exquisite pass across by Jaromir Jagr.
The Blackhawks then when with a new forward combination: Bickell – Toews – Stalberg. Following a commercial break, it was Sharp – Toews – Stalberg. Frolik – Kruger – Shaw were up next, then Smith – Bolland – Kane. Bolland took a tripping penalty before the next shift at 19:00 of the second. The Bruins ended a dominant second period with a 2-0 lead.
Keeping in mind the Bruins had a pair of two-goal leads in Game One, you could have thought it possible Chicago would tie it at some point take a run at tying it in the third, but that simply didn’t happen.
The third period began with a full minute of powerplay time for Boston. After killing that off, the Blackhawks, had to try something. So Quenneville began with Sharp – Toews or Handzus – Kane, then Bickell – Shaw – Smith; Kruger - Bolland - Frolik; and Smith – Handzus – Bickell.
Quenneville also mixed and matched with his defensemen, putting Keith with Hjalmarsson; Oduya with Seabrook; and Leddy with Rozsival. All of those alterations didn’t do much, and many didn’t last that long.
A third period powerplay created by Kruger’s speed on the attack (McQuaid for tripping) did not help Chicago. When Dave Bolland took a tripping penalty at 13:55 of the third, the Bruins were in position to put it away. Toews and Kane had a shorthanded chance, and soon thereafter, the Blackhawks got a powerplay when David Krejci hooked Brandon Saad on a semi-break in from center ice. While the ensuing powerplay looked better, it netted not a thing.
Crawford got to the bench for the extra attacker with 1:45 to go in regulation. The frustration was clear with less than 12 seconds left. Bickell and Chara scrapped in the slot, as Shaw and Marchand did so at the same time.
For Tuukka Rask, it was a 28-save shutout, putting the pressure on the Blackhawks to produce some offense after scoring just one goal in the last two games
Stay tuned for Game Four Wednesday night from the TD Garden, which goes back onto your local NBC over-the-air affiliate.