The bad news started for the Chicago Blackhawks even before the first puck dropped.
Marian Hossa was not able to play as a result of an upper-body injury. Early reports indicated that the injury happened in the pregame warm-up, but head coach Joel Quenneville insisted that wasn't the case.
No matter when the injury occurred, it seemed as if the entire team slumped with the news that one of their three top scorers couldn't play. The result was a much-too-easy 2-0 victory for the Boston Bruins and a 2-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup Final for the Blackhawks.
Once the puck dropped, the Bruins set the pace, and the Blackhawks had to counter. They were not very effective in that area. When the Blackhawks had control of the puck in the offensive zone, most of their best chances went wide or were blocked by the Boston defense.
Chicago rarely tested Tuukka Rask. Quenneville said as much, via Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times:
After the first period, it seemed that it was just a matter of time before the Bruins seized control of the game. Daniel Paille, the hero of Game 2 for the Bruins due to his game-winning overtime goal, put the Bruins on the board early in the second period.
Corey Crawford had made a brilliant glove save on a wrister from Tyler Seguin, and Chris Kelly got his stick on the rebound. While he could not control the puck, he kept the Blackhawks from getting possession. The speedy Paille wheeled around from behind the net, took possession of the puck and fired it past Crawford's glove.
With that, the Blackhawks needed one of their stars to step forward.
Patrick Sharp, the only Blackhawk to score a goal in the past two games, was buzzing around the TD Garden ice, looking for shooting opportunities and open teammates. He found little of either. Sharp had two shots on Rask, but he rarely found open teammates.
Jonathan Toews, the captain who has scored just one goal in the postseason, fired five shots, but most of them were from a tough distance and none of them caused much difficulty for Rask. Patrick Kane put his speed on display—primarily in the third period—and he ended up with four shots.
Quenneville knows his team can play better, but he credited the Bruins for making it tough on his Chicago squad.
"They box you out," Quenneville said in the postgame press conference, via Dan Rosen of NHL.com. "They've got big bodies. They blocked shots. I think we had some chances to get some pucks through the net, we didn't. Our entries weren't great. That's something you want to look at. "
The Blackhawks simply made the game far too easy for the hosts. They were beaten soundly in nearly all the key statistical aspects of the game.
The most obvious area that the Bruins dominated was in the faceoff circle. It was a horrific beating for the Blackhawks as they lost 40 of 56 faceoffs. It seemed that nobody could contain Patrice Bergeron, who won a remarkable 86 percent of his draws.
That allowed the Bruins to hold on to the puck throughout the game, a factor that counters the Chicago game plan. The Blackhawks rely on puck possession, but Boston's success in the faceoff circle made it nearly impossible to succeed in that part of the game.
In addition to the faceoff edge, the Bruins blocked 17 shots to the Blackhawks' seven. Boston also outhit Chicago 31-25, and the Bruins once again had the special teams edge.
The Blackhawks were 0-of-5 on the power play and gave up several short-handed chances to Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Brad Marchand.
The Bruins, who were struggling as much on the power play before the start of the series, scored once with a man advantage when Bergeron converted a Jaromir Jagr goalmouth pass in the second period. The Bruins also moved the puck well on their other power-play opportunities.
The Bruins did a good job of anticipating where the Blackhawks were going with the puck and took the puck away six times, while the Blackhawks took the puck away from the Bruins just twice.
The Blackhawks put some pressure on Rask in the late stages of the game when they were desperate to mount a comeback. Their best chance came on a Bryan Bickell wrister that hit the inside of the post in the final minute, but the rebound skittered harmlessly away.
The Blackhawks struggled on the chippy TD Garden ice, but that can't be an excuse since the Bruins were at a similar disadvantage.
The Blackhawks could not match the Bruins' energy, hustle or skill. They have an opportunity to rebound in Game 4, but it won't happen unless their stars bring their A-game and compensate for the statistical losses.
There was no sign of that in Game 3, and the loss of Hossa hurt badly. But regardless of whether Hossa can play Wednesday night, the Blackhawks will have to take the play to the Bruins and not let the hosts dictate once again, or they will find themselves in a much deeper hole at the end of Game 4.