The Boston Bruins remain winless in three Stanley Cup Final rematches in the Claude Julien era. After a pair of losses to their 2011 adversaries from Vancouver, they settled for a regulation tie and 3-2 shootout loss Sunday afternoon to the Blackhawks in Chicago.
As is all but inherent in a single-point gain, especially against a fellow established powerhouse, Sunday’s effort yielded a mixed bag for the black and gold. With some individual standouts, collective close saves and a few empty stretches, they fittingly left the United Center knowing they could have earned less but could have also earned more.
With two critical goals on their log, but one more point they swung and missed on, here are two notable plusses and one big blot to bear in mind coming out of Sunday’s action.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.
Going forward, he may also encourage Julien to consider more frequent and greater gaps in his game log if and when a colleague can combat the adversary at hand. After all, if the Bruins are to wage another multiround playoff run in 2014, they will need Rask to remain in the right condition to ward off Cyclopean strike forces like he did for the better part of Sunday in Chicago.
Granted, Brandon Bollig’s wide-angle equalizer at 9:44 of the second period was a blemish he should wish he could delete. That notwithstanding, Rask kept up a compelling staring contest with Corey Crawford for the better part of the afternoon.
Of his 35 regulation/overtime saves, including 14 in the first period, his most spectacular may have also been his most momentous. That one was recorded at the 12:05 mark of the opening frame (per nhl.com’s play-by-play account), when he barely slammed the back door on Brandon Saad to summon a whistle.
That was Rask’s second straight stop on a shot that came from within less than 10 feet, and he made it when the Bruins were still trailing, 1-0.
In turn, by closing one door on a potential multigoal deficit, he very well may have opened another to Boston’s most outstanding skater of the game. Speaking of whom…
Any productivity is, most technically speaking, better than no productivity. Timely productivity, however, juts out with extra virtual value.
Given the opponent at hand, his history with the opponent and when he clicked against that opponent, Brad Marchand could not have been much more emphatic with the points he posted on Sunday.
Marchand went thoroughly scoreless in the six-game championship series against the Blackhawks last spring. His sluggish pace carried over into this past autumn, though he started to rekindle his touch as fall transitioned to winter.
Facing Chicago for the first time in the current campaign, Marchand ensured his first three-game goal-scoring and point-getting streak since last year’s Pittsburgh playoff series. He did that with a last-minute, 1-1 equalizer, collecting a backhand pass from Patrice Bergeron and roofing a snap shot from the faceoff circle to the opposite shelf.
Few types of goals can generally rival the impact of one scored on the cusp of an intermission. Except, perhaps, one that comes on a fresh sheet within the first minute of another period.
Marchand tossed that in to break the tie he had forged with only 50 seconds gone in the middle frame. He accepted a cross-ice pass from Reilly Smith in the neutral zone and strolled in uncontested to feed the five-hole, spawning a 2-1 lead.
With that, Marchand ensured himself four goals and five points in his last three outings, including multipoint performances versus Chicago and Toronto.
For what it’s worth, he kept up his individual momentum by burying Boston’s only shootout conversion, which was not sufficient to pick up the extra point. But the solitary point would not have been possible without his regulation output and appeared in doubt in the wee phases of the game.
On that note…
The Bruins continue to log their share of shortcomings when engaging in marquee matchups on the road.
They have now added Chicago to a list featuring Anaheim, Los Angeles, Montreal and Pittsburgh, all of whom are among the best home teams in the NHL. They have paid a single visit to each of those cities so far this season and submitted an incomplete set of 60-plus minutes each time.
They did reap a 1-0 regulation decision last Saturday from San Jose, where the Sharks are now 16-2-3, and piled on another point in Sunday’s engagement. But that one point was a fitting quantification of a half-full and half-empty outcome.
The half-empty aspect was most visible within the tone-setting phases of Sunday’s opening frame, when Boston gave the Blackhawks ample opportunity to show why they are now 18-3-7 at the United Center.
The Bruins did not land their first shot on goal until the 5:47 mark, when they were already trailing courtesy of Marian Hossa’s end-to-end conversion. Center Ryan Spooner was as good as a point patroller when he issued that shot exactly 60 feet from the Chicago cage.
They mustered a couple of blocked attempts beforehand but were otherwise authorizing an imbalance in ice shavings between the two attacking zones.
Once they started to thaw out, a more even and entertaining contest ensued, with each side swapping its share of stimulating chances. Those chances amounted to a hard-earned regulation point for each side, but Chicago’s shootout supremacy issued a rightful reminder that the Bruins need to be sharper from the first faceoff to final horn.