Last night, the Bruins played their first home game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals against the Blackhawks. They played an amazing overall game and earned a win to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. This would be their fourth consecutive home game during the Stanley Cup Finals (going back to 2011) that they’ve won. They also never trailed in any of those games. While they are known for playing well on the road during the regular season, they are deadly at home in the playoffs. It’s not just their home playoff record that’s been good, though, (8-2 this year), but the way they’ve been playing throughout the playoffs as a whole (14-5 total with a sweep).
Some commentators have said this Bruins team may be the best and most complete team we see for a long time. They don’t have one or two big name stars like the Blackhawks or Penguins, but they have a full roster or guys who always give 200% effort and do the nitty-gritty stuff that helps a team win, but doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. For example, Patrice Bergeron does literally everything. He’s the best faceoff winner in the league and a great playmaker, but he also is more determined to play good defense than any other forward I’ve ever seen (which is why he won the Selke Trophy last year and would’ve this year if he hadn’t). His great defense doesn’t show up in the stats, but it helped get his team to the Finals, as opposed to someone like the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin who is a great scorer, but does nothing else.. and his team just got swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by us. So you see how important it is to have the selfless, strong, and determined type of players the Bruins do.
Our very well-rounded team played a great game last night, out-hitting and out-shooting the Blackhawks throughout the game. They spent most of their time in the Blackhawks zone getting good scoring chances. It finally paid off two minutes into the second period when Daniel Paille scored his second consecutive goal of the Finals. It was also his second consecutive game-winning goal as the Chicago never scored. It was a sick wrist shot too. Paille made a steal then immediately turned and fired the puck into the top corner of the net past Corey Crawford. This third line of Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly, and Tyler Seguin is still playing very well as they did last game. 12 minutes later, the Bruins were on a power play. While they have struggled to score with the man advantage in recent years, they’ve done much better in these playoffs and this was a great example. They worked the offense really well and eventually Jaromir Jagr got the puck on one side of the net. He then made an insanely perfect pass across the crease to Patrice Bergeron, who then shot it in for the Bruins’ second goal. The score would stay 2-0 Bruins. Finally, a game that didn’t require overtime. It was looking like every game in this series would go to overtime after the first two games had a combined four overtime periods totaling 66 minutes.
With about a minute left in regulation, the Blackhawks pulled Crawford out of the net for an extra attacker. At that point we’re down a man, so our penalty killing lines came out. While Jagr is not on these lines because he’s slow and not known for his defense, coach Claude Julien put him in right near the end. I can only assume that this was in the hopes that he would be able to score an empty-netter and finally get his first playoff goal with the Bruins. He has had so many great chances and hit so many posts it’s getting ridiculous. He didn’t score, but he did hit the post and have a few other close shots in this game. His goal will come. I’m thinking he will score in Game 4, and I really hope I’m right. He is soooo due. Even if he doesn’t score a playoff goal with the Bruins, though, he definitely has made a difference. He has set up many of our scoring plays and a ton of great chances. Regardless of his lack of goals, I am happy we got him.
As I said the Bruins out-hit and out-shot the Blackhawks, but they also beat them in almost every other stat. The most dominant stat for the Bruins, though, was faceoffs. We won 40 to their 16! This was much thanks to Patrice Bergeron who won a whopping 24 of his 28 faceoffs! Still, the best stats were produced by the best player in the game, our goalie Tuukka Rask. He stopped 28 of 28 shots, including four of four during Blackhawks power plays and earned his third career playoff shutout. He has now stopped 61 of 62 shots in the last too games and has played over 162 minutes without letting in a goal! This is truly the year of Rask.
For a minute, I would like to go back into the determination and selflessness of the Bruins players. The prime example was Gregory Campbell, who broke his leg blocking a shot against the Penguins, then stayed on the ice for a full minute to play defense. There was another example of this type of sacrifice last night. During the pre-game skate, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara slipped and collided with Milan Lucic as his head smacked the ice. He then had to get stitches on his head. But guess what, he still played in the game! As a side note, he also wade an awesome play when there was a faceoff that nobody had initially won. The puck was sitting there, so he hit Michal Handzus hard and knocked him to the ice, away from the puck so the Bruins could get it. He was physical throughout the game.
A perfect example of how the Blackhawks players have the opposite mentality was Marian Hossa. He is one of their leaders, yet rather than setting the example of doing whatever it takes for the team, like Chara, he sat out of Game 3. He had apparently been injured (with an “upper body injury”) in the previous game, yet he never left that game. So obviously he was able to play through the injury. So why didn’t he play in this game? Well, for one, he is not cut from the same cloth as Bruins players, but I can only speculate on other reasons. Maybe he doesn’t feel he gets paid enough to play through an injury, or maybe he doesn’t have enough confidence that his team will win the series to do it, or maybe his just a wuss. Either way, he seems to have the exact opposite mentality of that of the Bruins players, which I would argue is very close to necessary to win a Stanley Cup.
The Bruins defense remains solid, the offense has been rejuvenated (in the playoffs), and Tuukka Rask has had a fantastic run so far. If your weren’t sure about the Bruins’ chances to win this series before, this game should’ve made it much more clear that we have a great chance to win our second Stanley Cup in three seasons. We grind out games and even if we don’t score many goals, we usually keep the other team from scoring too. We shut down “the most powerful offense in the league” in the Penguins, and we’re doing pretty much the same to “the best team in the league,” the Blackhawks. In this series and the last (seven games), we’ve kept the league’s top scorers Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane from scoring a single goal! That says a lot. Meanwhile, we have a whole roster full of production, highlighted lately by our third line, who won the last game and this one. I still think this series will follow my original prediction of winning one of the first two games, then all of our home games (Games 3, 4, and 6). We just need two more wins to take home the Stanley Cup, and I really hope the final one is at home in Boston so that they get to clinch it in front of their fans. Even if they don’t win it at home, I’m very confident that they will win it. So, no matter what happens, remember Bruins fans, you must always..
Thanks for reading,