So far in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins have needed over nine periods of play to decide Games 1 and 2. For those counting at home, that is the equivalent of more than three full NHL games. Both games saw the Blackhawks and Bruins fight, batter and bruise each other to an overtime victory, and now the series shifts to Boston tied up at one game apiece.
While the series certainly looks like it has the potential to play out the full seven games, you have to wonder if this propensity for marathon games will continue. While it's possible that we could see more games last well into overtime, I'm here to tell you why that won't happen.
The Case for More Overtime Games
After the first two games of this series, its evident that these two teams are about as even as you could possibly get. This apparent equality stems from the fact that the Blackhawks and Bruins have produced very similar styles of play in the playoffs.
Both teams have young goaltenders whose outstanding play has guided their teams to the Stanley Cup Final (Tuukka Rask for Boston, Corey Crawford for Chicago). Both teams have relied on physical play to wear the other team down, with Boston throwing 109 hits through the two games, and Chicago notching 95 hits of their own. Both teams have top line talent they have relied on for scoring (Kane, Toews and Hossa for Chicago; Lucic, Horton and Krejci for Boston).
The two teams even share a similar role-player, the "superpest" in Brad Marchand for Boston, and Andrew Shaw for Chicago.
The teams have put on roughly the same number of shots, had similar special teams play throughout the playoffs and right now neither team has been able to dominate the other one throughout an entire game, a trend that could be likely to continue.
In Pierre LeBrun's article for ESPN regarding the close competition in the series so far, Bruins' captain Zdeno Chara remarked how tight the games have been thus far, saying, "Two good teams playing in the finals...It's very even. You know, small things are usually going to decide these games." Chicago's Patrick Kane echoed those sentiments, stating, "Every shift is going to matter. And you saw it in this game, it is pretty evenly matched. I expect more of the same going forward."
The margin between the two in this series has been razor thin, and one could easily expect more games to head to overtime before the Stanley Cup Final runs its course. However, here's...
Why It Won't Happen
Reason number one why we won't see any more marathon games between Boston and Chicago is simple.
To find a Stanley Cup Final series that has had more than two overtime games, you have to go all the way back to 1993, when the Patrick Roy-led Montreal Canadiens took down Wayne Gretzky's Los Angeles Kings in five games. This series would have to be the first since the 2004 lockout, and the first in almost two decades that would include three or more games that stretched into overtime.
However, it isn't just history that tells us we will fail to have more overtime games in this series, but rather, it's the way the series has been played. As mentioned before, these games have been excruciatingly close, in part due to the high level of physical play.
Remember how the Bruins have averaged 54.5 hits per game? Yeah, that's about 30 hits a game above their regular season average. Chicago hasn't been too shabby itself in the hitting department, averaging 47.5 hits per game. This is extremely impressive, considering Chicago was dead last in hitting in the regular season, per NHL.com.
These two teams have been attempting to wear the other down during the first two games, and more than likely, they have succeeded. Though the first couple games have been close, expect a couple of one-sided scores throughout the rest of the series.
Don't believe me? Look no further than 2011, the last time the Bruins were in the Stanley Cup Final. After two close losses to the Vancouver Canucks, 1-0 in Game 1, and 3-2 in overtime in Game 2, Boston went on to rout Vancouver over the next two games by a combined 11 goals, a team clearly worn down by Boston's physical play.
Now, I'm not saying that Boston is going to dominate Chicago the rest of the series, but don't expect the following games to be as close as the last two have been.
Lastly, don't forget that Boston and Chicago have two of the best head coaches in the game right now. Claude Julian has been Boston's coach since 2007, leading them to one Stanley Cup victory and to the playoffs every year since taking over. Chicago's Joel Quenneville has coached them since 2008, guiding them to their own Stanley Cup in 2010 and to the the NHL's best record this year.
After two close games in Chicago, expect both coaches to have plenty of strategy changes up their sleeves. The rest of this series will likely be a read-and-react affair between the two teams, as evidenced by last year's Stanley Cup Final between the LA Kings and the New Jersey Devils. Similarly, both of these teams played the first two games into overtime. However, the rest of the games ranged between blowouts and close victories, none of them reaching overtime.
While this series promises to be a long, hard contested battle between two supremely talented teams, don't expect to see much more overtime action between them. Chicago and Boston have plenty of fight left in them, and even though this series promises to be one of the best in recent memory, the trend of epic overtime games will likely not continue.