BOSTON – The way the Boston Bruins have quieted the Chicago Blackhawks’ offense is reminiscent of what they did in the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the other top stars for the Penguins went pointless in the four-game sweep. Blackhawks forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and Sharp are going through a similar drought.
The Boston Bruins experience, as the Rangers and Penguins discovered, isn’t a fun one. It’s the limiting of time and space and the layer upon layer of defensive pressure at all times. Chicago’s stars can’t shine because the Bruins are smothering them.
Still, for as much as Boston’s been controlling at times in this series, all it takes is a fortunate bounce to get the wheel turning the other way. The Blackhawks’ power play could wake up. Their stars could get going. The Bruins’ third line can quiet down. Corey Crawford could return the favor and shutout Boston in Game 4.
This is why the mood in the Blackhawks’ room was one of confidence, not urgency.
"It feels like the end of the world after a loss,” said Patrick Sharp. “You wake up the next day and realize it's a long series.”
“You do feel a little bit frustrated, but it’s hockey,” said Dave Bolland. “You’re going to deal with this. We’re going to battle through. They’re only up 2-1.”
The Blackhawks have been down this road before, with their offense scoring just twice in three straight losses against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. It wasn’t necessarily the stars carrying the load in those wins either. Bryan Bickell and Andrew Shaw led the secondary scoring production as Chicago rallied back in the series.
The video editing machine must be getting a workout as Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville and his staff pinpoint how they can figure out a way to beat the Bruins. Game 4 will either bring the Bruins on the cusp of a second Cup in three seasons or be Chicago’s display of learning from past mistakes.
“I think exiting that game [Monday night], you lose back-to-back games, it gets your attention,” said Quenneville. “We're in a hole right now. We want to make sure [Wednesday] we prioritize the importance of that game and it's a different level. We were in a tough spot Games 5, 6, and 7 against Detroit. We're looking at it like that.”
Chicago has wanted to take it to the Bruins early in games, match their physicality and dictate the pace. At times they’ve been successful, but since Andrew Shaw’s goal in the third overtime of Game 1, it’s been all Boston.
Momentum is only good until the puck is dropped for the next game. Right now, hours before faceoff of Game 4, it’s in the hands of the Bruins. Games 1 and 2 could have gone either way. Game 3 was a goal away from being tighter than it looked. The Blackhawks aren't panicking yet, but the time for urgency is approaching.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy