The first two games of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins have been outstanding, and Game 3 is sure to be just as much of a barn burner.
The Bruins and Blackhawks each took an overtime victory in the pair of games at the United Center, and we’ll have to wait and see if the trend continues when the series shifts to the TD Garden in Boston. If it does, well, we’re in for quite the treat, as I’ll discuss in a bit.
The series have been back-and-forth all the way through, and it’s clear that Boston and Chicago are very evenly matched. That should make for an intriguing third game that will give one of the conference champions a major advantage going forward. Chicago will look to take out Boston’s near-perfect record at home this postseason while gaining an edge in the series in doing so.
So, what should you be taking from the first two games while looking forward to Game 3 in Boston? Well, here are a pair of storylines that are about as big as they come in the Stanley Cup Final.
Only One Day Off?
These guys are tired, and it’s really starting to show.
The three overtimes in Game 1 between the Bruins and Blackhawks was a worst-case scenario. As each overtime period went on, it was obvious that nearly every player was out of gas. Players were failing to get back on plays and the game moved much slower than earlier in the game.
But with the additional day off before the start of Game 2, that at least aided the legs of those on both rosters. But of course, neither team could score a second goal before the third-period buzzer sounded, and the game went into overtime. Chicago had controlled the game until that point, but that changed in the extra frame.
“If somebody would watch the first period, I would’ve said, ‘Oh give them the Cup right now,’” Bruins forward Jaromir Jagr told Jeff Klein of The New York Times.
The Bruins absolutely dominated the Blackhawks after getting seriously outplayed beforehand. Luckily for the Bruins, Daniel Paille managed to sneak a puck past Corey Crawford to end the game after just one extra period.
It would’ve gotten extremely ugly if a second or third overtime period was required.
But after having an extra day to rest after Game 1, it’ll only be one day this time around, as both teams prepare for Game 3 in Boston. In essence, the Bruins and Blackhawks have played nearly 10 periods in a pair of games and will be playing at least 13 periods over the course of a couple of days.
That’s crazy to think about.
Depth is going to be extremely important in determining the winner of Game 3. The Bruins cannot continue to play 10 forwards in the later periods, and the Blackhawks will be forced to use everyone on the bench too. It’s more important to play fresh players who are average than tired players who are great.
Getting a lot of fluids will be important over the next day or so. The team that comes out with more fire should win the game. A quick goal could be the difference between a win and a loss. The players likely won’t be skating full speed through all three periods, but they’ll do whatever it takes to avoid another overtime period.
Rask, Crawford Continue to Amaze
Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, everyone knew that Crawford and Tuukka Rask had been outstanding throughout the postseason. They were one-two and two-one in save percentage and goals-against average. Despite long games, both have still looked spectacular.
Crawford saved 51 of 54 shots in Game 1 and then 26-of-28 in Game 2. That works out to be a .939 save percentage. Rask has been slightly better, posting a .948 save percentage through the first two games of the series, having faced nearly 100 shots already—which speaks to how impressive both Chicago and Rask have been.
In Game 2, Chicago put 19 shots on Rask in the opening period, according to John Kreiser of NHL.com.
Here’s what Rask told Joe McDonald of ESPN Boston about the first period:
Well, every goal you let in you have a chance to save, ... I’m not going to blame myself for that. I think there were three or four saves before that goal. I couldn’t find that puck until the last second. But, you know, I mean, they had 19 shots, and one goes by you. I mean, it happens sometimes.
After that, however, it was Crawford who faced more pressure. From the second period on, Boston outshot Chicago 28-15. Needless to say, though, both goalies have done a remarkable job preventing goals.
Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville had this to say about his netminder after the game, according to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune:
He was great, ... He kept us in there. They have some great looks in overtime around the net. [He] stands tall, finding that puck, gives us a chance.
Crawford and Rask have each given their teams the chance to win, but with the overtime periods, each game could’ve gone either way. The two goalies have stood on their heads throughout the entire series, and if they continue to play like they have been, goals are going to be tough to come by.