Stanley Cup 2013: Chicago Blackhawks Lose Physical & Endurance Battles in Game 2

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Stanley Cup 2013: Chicago Blackhawks Lose Physical & Endurance Battles in Game 2

CHICAGO, Ill.—Going into overtime on a nightly basis is a lot like gambling. Go on a hot streak and the night will end with smiles and joy—but when the dealer goes on a run, it's disastrous.

The Chicago Blackhawks' second consecutive overtime game against the Boston Bruins saw the dealer turning over 21 on the final hand of the night. The Bruins finished the game with an overtime snipe by Daniel Paille, and they came away with a 2-1 win that evened the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece.

Chicago was taken out of its game slowly by Boston's grinding style. The Bruins used a relentless body-checking attack that slowly numbed the home team.

It certainly didn't look like the hitting game was going to be the difference in the first period, as the Blackhawks came out on top of their game and skated circles around the Bruins.

Boston's defense seemed tired, most notably captain Zdeno Chara. The Bruins seemed to be feeling the effects of the triple overtime effort in Game 1. The Blackhawks had the puck in the Boston zone throughout the first period and out-shot Boston 19-4.

Shots on goal are not always an indication of one team's edge on its opponent, but this time there was no doubt that the Blackhawks were doing exactly what they wanted.

Head coach Claude Julien was obviously concerned about his team's effort in the first period.

“We were on our heels, we were second to the puck, we were just throwing pucks out of our own end, we were not making plays," Julien said. "We were standing still in our own end and hesitating. They were moving the puck around us and had a couple of point-blank shots. We were just not ready to play. This was not the way you want to start a game."

There was one problem from the Blackhawks' perspective, however. Patrick Sharp's strike at the 11:22 mark of the period was the only time the Blackhawks found the back of the net against Tuukka Rask.

Head coach Joel Quenneville knew that his team should have gotten more out of the period than a narrow one-goal lead. They easily could have been ahead by three if Rask had not been stellar.

"We could have had more than one goal," Quenneville said after the game. "We had a number of opportunities to extend the lead, but we just couldn't bury those chances. You have to give their goaltender (Rask) for allowing them to stay close."  He noted, "We had the perfect start to the game and then we stopped doing what made us successful...and you know we stood around, and they countered."

But as the Blackhawks were passing the puck around as if it were on a string, creating chance after chance—Sharp had six shots on goal in the first period and Marian Hossa had five—the Bruins were going after the Blackhawks with a heavy dose of body-checking.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Bruins out-hit the Blackhawks 21-9 in the first period as Milan Lucic registered five fearsome checks, and bruising defenseman Johnny Boychuk had four.

The heavy hitting would pay dividends later on in the game. The Blackhawks still had a bit of an edge in the second period, but when Chris Kelly—really, Chris Kelly—tied things up midway through the period, the game changed dramatically.

Kelly had been scoreless in 17 previous playoff games.

The Blackhawks could not sustain their attack the way they did in the first period.They could not throw the puck around and force Rask to go side to side to make his eye-catching saves.

From the middle of the second period, the Blackhawks had a difficult time putting tough shots on Rask. They mounted just 15 shots on goal in the second, third and overtime periods.

The Bruins got stronger as the game progressed. Tyler Seguin looked as if he might break the tie a few minutes before Paille did when he appeared to capture the puck between the circles for a shot, but the puck bounced away from him before he could end the night.

The Bruins never wavered from their physical formula. They finished the game with a 50-34 margin in hits. Lucic led the Bruins with 10 hits, and defenseman Adam McQuaid finished with eight. Duncan Keith led the Blackhawks with four hits.

In addition to slowing down in the latter stages of the game, the Blackhawks lost much of their focus.

They couldn't connect on passes or sustain plays. They lacked the endurance to finish what they had started so well.

There is no need for the Blackhawks to panic. The series is tied after two very tight games. But just like Boston failed to take advantage of its outstanding chances in Game 1, the Blackhawks failed to do the same in Game 2.

Now they head to the second part of the series, on the road at the TD Garden. The crowd will be loud and in Boston's favor.

However, it's the physical pounding that Quenneville and the Blackhawks will have to fight, and that may be a battle that this team is ill-equipped to win.

 

Steve Silverman is a credentialed reporter covering the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago for Bleacher Report. Quotes in this story were obtained firsthand unless otherwise indicated.

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