By Jon Fromi
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final didn’t disappoint Wednesday night. The series opener between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins saw nearly two full games of hockey with Chicago prevailing in three overtimes by a score of 4-3.
The Blackhawks rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the final period, then outlasted the Bruins in the lengthy overtime session to take a 1-0 series lead. Andrew Shaw wound up a hero with the game-winning goal, but goals by Chicago’s depth players and 51 saves by Corey Crawford also had a big hand in the win.
Chicago came out looking to take the physical action to the Bruins. It resulted in some scoring chances but wound up biting the Blackhawks in the behind midway through the opening period.
Niklas Hjalmarsson attempted to plant David Krejci into the endboards rather than play the puck. The Bruins took advantage, with Nathan Horton finding Krejci on the way to Milan Lucic getting a wide open look at the net. Lucic wristed home the game’s first goal at the 13:11 mark to give Boston a 1-0 advantage. The score held through the end of the period.
The same Boston line stretched the lead to 2-0 early in the second period, with Krejci assisting on a Lucic slapper 51 seconds in. Minutes later, Brandon Saad would wake up the Madhouse.
Saad picked up his first goal of the postseason, taking a feed from Marian Hossa out of the corner to cut the lead to 2-1. The ‘Hawks failed to convert on a 5-on-3 power play but began getting more shots on Rask. Going into the second intermission, Boston owned a one-goal lead.
Things got bleak five minutes into the third period. Michael Frolik was called for tripping and Boston picked up a power play goal. Patrice Bergeron was the recipient of some nice puck movement by Horton and Lucic and the Blackhawks trailed 3-1 with 13:51 to play.
Andrew Shaw stole a clearing attempt, patiently waited for his team to get onside, then found Dave Bolland for a slick one-timer coming down the slot. At the eight minute mark, Chicago trailed 3-2.
A little over four minutes later, the ‘Hawks made it all the way back thanks to the skate of Andrew Ference. Johnny Oduya sent a puck to the net from the blue line which was well off the mark. However, the puck struck the Bruins defenseman and slid into the net, allowing Chicago to tie the contest. Neither team could unknot the score and off to overtime they went.
The first overtime period was a wild, heart-stopping affair that saw each team with point blank chances to end the game. Shaw just missed a Toews centering pass early in OT. Seabrook turned away a breakaway attempt by Marchand. The ‘Hawks got a great play by Oduya to deny a 2-on-1 opportunity.
In the 12th minute of overtime, Chicago was called for too many men on the ice, giving the Bruins a big power play opportunity. Despite Crawford losing his stick, the Blackhawks killed the infraction. Neither Crawford or Boston’s Tuuka Rask let a puck cross the goal line and the outcome was still undecided heading into a fourth intermission.
The action stayed on a tight rope in the second overtime. Tyler Seguin sent a shot off of Crawford. Kane was on the doorstep but couldn’t get a handle on the puck in the eighth minute. As fatigue set in, both teams continued to narrowly miss on attempts to put in the game-winner. The period ended with Boston on the power play off when Chicago again had six skaters on the ice. A deflection off the right post flittered across the crease but Lucic fanned on the put back attempt that would have ended the game.
Chicago killed off the final minute of the Bruins power play to open the third period. The next dozen minutes saw many chances on both sides, but two plays stood out. The first came when Kaspars Daugavins had Crawford down and an open net. One move too many and a desperate stick from Oduya resulted in the shot sliding wide right.
The other sequence started when Bryan Bickell dug the puck out of the corner and got it out to Michal Rozsival at the blue line. Rozival’s attempt was deflected by Bollands stick before striking the knee of Shaw. The pinball effect was enough to beat Rask and end the marathon at 52:08 of extra time.
-Zzzzzzzzzzzz…glad I’m not working tomorrow. Maybe Rocky Wirtz can write everyone a note. All of a sudden, two nights off before Game 2 doesn’t seem to be too bad of a deal.
-Aside from the fact that Nathan Horton came out of the game in the first overtime and didn’t return, this loss has to hit the Bruins especially hard.
-Almost six periods of play and the goals were scored by Saad, Bolland, Oduya and Shaw. Speaks to the depth.
-Maybe I’m just sleep deprived, but I believe that there were overtime moments where both Shawn Thornton and Brandon Bollig were on the ice and could have conceivably ended the game with a goal. How many heads would have exploded had this occurred?
-Does Shaw get more props for his well-placed knee, his willingness to take a run at Zdeno Chara several times on the night, or his post-game F-bomb on national television?
-It seemed like Boston limited a lot of second chances for the Blackhawks. I’d like to see Chicago get skaters to some of the loose pucks Rask left. On the other hand, he didn’t leave much out there.
-Duncan Keith played nearly fifty minutes. Not sure anything else has to be said.
-Special teams could well have been the difference tonight. The ‘Hawks were 0-3, including failing to hit on a two-man advantage, on the power play. Boston scored on its first power play chance. In games this close, the ‘Hawks need to at least break even.
-Don’t be surprised if there are more games like this starting Saturday night.