Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between Chicago and Boston should be another hotly contested affair.
The first two games in Chicago were close affairs that hinged on a handful of plays. The Blackhawks took the first contest with Boston capturing Game 2. With the series even, Chicago is charged with getting back on track with a win on the road.
The Blackhawks will have their hands full in the opening minutes of Game 3. The Bruins are sure to come out with purpose when the puck drops. It was Boston that survived a furious start by Chicago with just a single goal surrendered on 19 first period shots. The 'Hawks need to be that kind of tough in the face of what should be Boston's best effort.
Basic strategies should not change much Monday. The middle of the ice is what will need to be controlled for one team to come out on top. Depth is also going to play an issue.
Chicago's lower lines came away with the scoring in Game 1 while the Bruins third line made the difference in Saturday's win. It is not a stretch to think the same cast of characters will have a hand in the destiny of Game 3.
One name that could be new to the series is winger Viktor Stalberg, who could get the nod Monday in lieu of forward Brandon Bollig. Coach Joel Quenneville told ESPNChicago's Scott Powers Sunday that Stalberg could play in Game 3.
If that is the case, the 'Hawks bottom six gets an injection of speed. Stalberg could open up the ice for Chicago.
ESPNChicago's Jesse Rogers tossed out Jamal Mayers as an interesting option for the 'Hawks. Adding a veteran who can rough it up with Boston would be an intriguing choice for Quenneville to consider. The only problem with that is Mayers played sparingly in the regular season and did not seem to have anything left in the tank when he did play.
Allow me to theorize for Quenneville. What about using Ben Smith to stir the pot? He would add a net presence and does have playoff experience. Smith has not played in a meaningful game for over a month though, so Stalberg still may be Quenneville's best choice.
Boston coach Claude Julien added Tyler Seguin to his third line of Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille and shortened up his bench in Game 2. With a last line change at home, Julien may opt to stick to the lineup that rallied to beat Chicago on Saturday.
The series could turn with a big game from Chicago's big names or even some signs of life from the power play. With momentum being a minute-to-minute proposition, an opportunistic bounce of the puck or that extra burst of hustle could easily be the difference in Game 3.
It could well be that the opening 10-15 minutes tell the story Monday in front of a energized Boston crowd. For the Blackhawks, holding off a Bruins charge could be the key.