Game One of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final was the epitome of playoff hockey. The Boston Bruins were big and bad, just like the late 1960’s early-1970’s version.
Their biggest and baddest forward – Milan Lucic (give me license here, Nathan Horton is listed as being 9 pounds heavier than Lucic) – provided the Bruins with a 2-0 lead with his goal early in the second period.
Indeed, the Bruins’ top line of Lucic-David Krejci and Horton dominated the early going. They outplayed Chicago’s top line of Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa in their head-head battles. The Blackhawks seemed tentative in that first period.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville adapted, and so did his team. Quenneville juggled his lines and put rookie Brandon Saad back with Toews and Hossa, as they had been much of the regular season. Sharp dropped down to left wing with Dave Bolland and Andrew Shaw – both units benefitted.
Saad scored the goal that cut the Boston lead in half, and the Blackhawks were all over the Bruins and goaltender Tuukka Rask for the balance of the second. They outshot the Bruins, 16-6, yet were still down a goal when the second ended. The theme seemed to be lost opportunities though, as Chicago had three powerplay situations in the second, including 1:17 of a 5-on-3, but didn’t even manage a shot on goal in that span.
As the third period began, whatever momentum the Blackhawks may have had was neutralized when the Bruins scored a powerplay goal by Patrice Bergeron just 18 seconds after Michael Frolik took the first Blackhawks penalty of the game for tripping Zdeno Chara, making it 3-1, Boston.
Yet, that turned out to be the starting point for what NBC’s Pierre McGuire termed “spectacular theatre.” Less than two minutes after Bergeron’s goal, Dave Bolland beat Rask from his right side to gut it to 3-2. With 7:46 left in regulation, a shot from Johnny Oduya got through Rask to tie it up.
Who would have dreamed the two teams would play almost three full periods after that before it was decided?
The Bruins had great chances, particularly early in the first overtime, but Corey Crawford and Rask held firm. In that first overtime, the Bruins lost Nathan Horton to what seemed to be a re-aggravation of a previous injury. Tyler Seguin was plugged into his spot as Boston had 11 forwards available for the balance of the game. In the In the three overtimes, the Bruins outshot the Blackhawks, 29-24.
The start of the game-winning play was an attempted shot by Michal Rozsival, which was deflected, first by Bolland, and ultimately by Andrew Shaw to end the marathon game at Midnight on your kitchen clock, or 12:08 of the third overtime.
Bottom line, while the big guns tallied for Boston, the role players got the job done for Chicago.
It was spectacular theatre – six periods worth. It set the bar extremely high for these playoffs. The winner was the NHL – and the players and the fans, who have until Saturday to ready themselves for Game Two!