In what was one of the more exciting Stanley Cup Finals games in recent memory, the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Boston Bruins, 4-3, in triple overtime of Game 1.
After facing deficits of 2-0 and 3-1, the Blackhawks battled back with two third period goals in just over a four minute span.
However, that was only the beginning of the excitement. Both teams had their fair share of great scoring opportunities in the first and second overtimes, including a Zdeno Chara shot that hit the post and a Michael Frolik shot that missed just wide of the net.
While both teams created great scoring chances, it seemed like none of them were ever going to go in. That was until Andrew Shaw had something to say about it.
At 12:08 of the third overtime session, a wrist shot from Michal Rozsival that orginally deflected off of Dave Bolland was then redirected for a second time by Shaw, sending the puck past a helpless Tuukka Rask and securing a 1-0 series lead for Chicago.
After all of the sweat and sacrifice, including a possibly devastating injury to Boston's Nathan Horton, it almost seems unimaginable to think that either of these two teams will have any gas in the tank to finish this series. However, the Bruins and Blackhawks meet again in Chicago at the United Center on Saturday night for Game 2.
Here are my adjustments for each team if they want to pull off a victory in the second game of the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
1. Maintain the Forecheck
The Bruins thrive off of their physical, aggressive style of play. They are not a team that tries to do too much and make a "Top 10 play."
Boston is at their best when they use their grit, determination, size and strength and tire opponents out with their strong forecheck. That seemed to be missing on Wednesday night.
In order to win Game 2 and take a split in Chicago, Boston needs to create turnovers in Chicago's defensive zone. This will lead to scoring chances, and ultimately, goals. With the likes of Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Boston has plenty of size, speed and skill to force the Blackhawks defensemen into bad decisions and stray passes in front of Corey Crawford's cage.
2. Finish Your Chances
After being mostly outplayed in the second and third periods, Boston completely dominated the first two overtime sessions. For that reason, the Bruins probably feel that they should have came away with the win last night.
However, they can only put the blame on themselves.
Boston had numerous chances throughout the first two overtimes that could have ended the game and sent the whole city of Boston into a frenzy. Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin both missed glorious chances in the first two overtimes, including a breakaway in which Seguin could not quite settle the puck down.
In the second overtime, Zdeno Chara hit the post on a shot that seemed to deflect off Jaromir Jagr. Kaspars Daugavins may have missed the best chance of the game, when he seemingly had Crawford beat but could not put enough power on his backhanded attempt.
Those were just a few of the chances that Boston had to give themselves a 1-0 series lead and steal home-ice advantage away from Chicago. If the Bruins are to take Game 2 away from the 'Hawks, they need to show a more killer-instinct in front of the goal.
3. Maintain a Sense of Urgency
Once Patrice Bergeron put the Bruins ahead 3-1 at 6:09 of the third period, it seemed like Boston stopped playing.
Gone was the sense of intimidation and determination that has carried this team throughout the playoffs so far. Gone was the physical presence of defensemen such as Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, at least in the second and third periods.
After Bergeron's goal and until overtime, Boston was totally outplayed by Chicago. That can't happen, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals.
If Boston is to establish a lead in Game 2, they cannot afford to take their foot off the pedal, or they will re-live Game 1 and see themselves down 2-0 in the series going back to Beantown.
1. Get More Production from Stars
If you're Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews or Marian Hossa, you might want to buy the rest of your team a nice dinner.
Kane, Toews and Hossa seemingly disappeared from yesterday's game, combining for a measly one assist between the three. Instead, it was guys like Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw, Johnny Oduya and Dave Bolland that came to the rescue for the Blackhawks.
Sure, while it is nice to see that Chicago had incredible performances by their depth players, it can't be expected that these guys will contribute on a nightly basis. In big-time games, big-time players need to step up.
Chicago's superstars cannot expect to stay as silent as they were in Game 1 for the rest of the series and call themselves Stanley Cup Champions at the end of the season.
While Boston may be extremely disappointed that they were not able to come away with a win despite limiting Chicago's best players, the Blackhawks should be extremely worried if guys like Kane, Toews and Hossa have a repeat performance of their Game 1 outing on Saturday night.
2. Put Bodies In Front of Rask
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how the Blackhawks have scored their game-tying and game-winning goals.
One of the first things you learn in hockey is that going to the net makes good things happen. As was the case in Game 1, the Blackhawks scored their third and fourth goals due to a heavy amount of traffic in front of Boston's goaltender Tuukka Rask.
The third goal, which was scored on a Johnny Oduya slap shot that was deflected off of Boston's Andrew Ference's skate, could be credited to Michael Frolik charging Rask's net.
Without Frolik crashing the cage, Ference would not have gone over to defend him, and therefore, would not have ended up putting the puck in his own net.
On the fourth goal, Michal Rozsival threw a puck at the net from the point, and he ended up hitting two Chicago players on its way past Rask.
The formula, then, is simple. Put bodies in front of Rask and cause chaos.
As good as Rask has been throughout these Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is impossible for him to battle through traffic, see through players and fight off deflections.
If Chicago wants to take a 2-0 series lead into Boston, putting traffic in front of Rask would be a great way to do so.
3. Get Off to a Faster Start
Going into Game 1, most people would expect that the Blackhawks would be on the front-foot. Riding the emotion and intensity from the Madhouse on Madison, not many probably saw Boston jumping out to a 2-0 lead in Game 1.
However, that is exactly what happened. It was the away team that got off to a better start. Noticeably more fresh and energized, Boston came out firing in Game 1 and silenced the United Center early.
Now, the Blackhawks got away with their slow start, but they cannot expect to be quite so lucky next time around.
Home-ice advantage is something that cannot be overstated in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The emotion from a raucous crowd has the potential to turn momentum at any point in time, as it did in Game 1. Chicago worked all season to get home-ice advantage in the playoffs, and now, they cannot let it go to waste.
The Blackhawks need to come out to a faster start and get the lead early in Game 2 on Saturday night. If that happens, look for them to be in pole position to take this series from Boston.
However, if the Bruins are able to, again, score early and build a lead against Chicago, then look for the Blackhawks to be needing a win at the TD Garden in Boston next week.
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