BOSTON – For the first time in the Stanley Cup final, we saw the Boston Bruins team that eviscerated the two best offensive players in the world in the Eastern Conference final. These were the lockdown, shutdown and putdown Bruins that have dominated since the first round of the playoffs.
And as you might expect, it wasn’t pretty.
Perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks will find a way to break through the defensive wall that is the Bruins and produce enough goals to get themselves back into the final series. Perhaps not all of Jonathan Toews yeomen’s work will go to waste with third- and fourth-line linemates. Hey, it could happen. The Blackhawks won the Presidents’ Trophy and battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the second round.
But let’s say they get their act together. Great. Then they’ll have to find a way to stop Dan Paille and Chris Kelly, of all people. Funny how these things turn. Going into the series, everyone was lauding the depth of the Blackhawks, but that particular dynamic has been turned on its ear. Now it’s the Bruins who are killing the Blackhawks with their foot soldiers.
And in the battle of the coaches, the Bruins are winning. In a rout. Hockey is a game of hunches and after the first period of Game 2, Bruins coach Claude Julien had a hunch that a line of Kelly between Tyler Seguin and Paille would work and the Bruins have not looked back. Julien’s also had a hunch that Dennis Seidenberg, who somehow wasn’t good enough to play for the Phoenix Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, could log enormous minutes. Score another one for Julien.
And Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville? Well, when Marian Hossa pulled out of the warm-up and couldn’t play, he thought that a top line of Toews between Marcus Kruger and Michal Frolik sounded like a good idea. And he stubbornly refused to make any adjustments until the third period when it was far too late. Toews played like a man possessed, but how is he supposed to produce any offense when he’s playing with those guys?
When asked about finally putting Toews back with Patrick Kane – and Patrick Sharp early in the third period – Quenneville responded that it’s an arrow in the quiver that he has the opportunity to use. He said they were available, “on a need basis.” Here’s a word of advice: You need it now, Joel. Your team is doing a whole lot of diddly-squat offensively and if you don’t start getting your stars going offensively, you’re going to be raising a Western Conference champion banner and posing with the Campbell Bowl in your team picture.
“They had a couple of looks together,” Quenneville said. “It’s something that is available. But you know, that’s on a need basis. It’s always something you can go to.”
After a Game 1 that produced both a thrilling regulation and overtime, the past two games have been far less than that in terms of both the quality of chances and excitement. Part of the reason is when you lock your players out for three months, you’re playing Game 3 on June 17 when the temperatures are well above 80 degrees. Not surprisingly, the ice was terrible. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara lost an edge and fell in the warm-up and required stitches to close a gash over his eye. The puck was bouncing all over the place, including on a Brad Marchand breakaway that was scuttled because the puck caught a chunk on the ice.
“It is pretty bad,” Seidenberg said. “When you try to shoot, try to swing your blade on the ice, it feels like sandpaper. It’s really rough. When you try to pass, the puck bounces. That’s why you have to keep the game simple. If there’s a play to be made, you have to make sure it’s an easy one.”
And isn’t that nice in the league’s marquee event? Just what you want when everyone is watching, defensemen chipping the puck off the boards to get it out of their zone and forwards being mugged and slashed as they try to go to the net to create the goals…You know, those things they count to see which team wins.
But the great equalizer is that the ignoring of the rulebook and the putrid ice is the same for both teams in the series. So then it comes down to the players and coaches. And when it comes to that, the Bruins might have a 2-1 lead in the series, but it looks a lot bigger, doesn’t it?
1. Patrice Bergeron: He scored a power play goal on a 5-on-3 and went 24-4 in the faceoff circle. Bergeron is, quite simply, one of the best 200-foot players in the game today.
2. Dennis Seidenberg: The Bruins give out an army jacket to the unsung player of the game and it went to Seidenberg Monday night. Deservedly so, for all the little things he did to lead his team to victory. He also blocked six shots.
3. Dan Paille: The Bruins scoring machine struck again with the game-winner in the second period and is a huge part of the Bruins most dangerous line.
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