Monday, June 17, 2013

Splitting Up to Boston

In Game 1 the Bruins started strong, the Blackhawks finished strong. In Game 2 it was the Blackhawks who started strong, and the Bruins who finished strong.

The B's were fortunate to escape the 1st period only down 1-0. Chicago was beating them everywhere, on the boards, in front of the net, in the neutral zone. The Blackhawks outshot the Bruins 16-3 to start the game, and 19-4 in the period. If not for Tuukka Rask stopping 18 of 19 shots, and if not for Nathan Horton's back-checking potentially preventing another Torey Krug turnover from becoming a Chicago goal, the Bruins might have found themselves with a steep hill to climb.

Then the game flipped. Although the B's only managed 24 shots in the remaining 2+ periods, they held Chicago to 15. All the good chances were Boston's. Marchand hit the inside of a post. Jagr hit a post in overtime. This time Corey Crawford was making the big saves to keep the Hawks in the game.

Putting Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, and Tyler Seguin together worked almost immediately. Seguin was sing his speed to make plays without the puck, and Kelly's goal was a product of Paille's maneuvering more than anything else.

Why did it take Julien so long to separate Kelly and Peverley? Both have slumped all season long, and both have to try to emerge from those slumps while playing with a slumping player.

This line would strike again in the overtime. And their contributions were the difference in the game. It isn't always the big names that win these games, especially when two talented teams meet. It's the role players and grinders that provide the separation between winning and losing.

Speaking of which, once either of these teams figures out their Power Play, that's going to be the difference in a game. It was almost the difference in Game 1.

There are reasons for Bruins fans to feel optimistic. The B's now have home-ice advantage, they've won in Chicago, they're a turnover away from being up 2-0, Rask has been great, and so on.

My cup isn't half full. Nor is it half empty. It's half. This series is dead even. 186 minutes of hockey and each team has 5 goals. The Bruins have the better goalie but the Blackhawks are getting more shots on goal. The faceoffs in Game 1 were 58-56. The Bruins had Chris Kelly in Game 2, the Blackhawks had Dave Bolland in Game 1.

The margin between these two teams has been imperceptibly slim. Every edge one team has is counteracted by an edge on the other. Mistakes (advantage Chicago so far), goaltending (advantage Boston), special teams (advantage Boston), scoring from defensemen (advantage Chicago), these are the factors that will determine the victor of the series.

Game 3 tonight in Boston.

Photo Credit:
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast