Game One: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Andrew ShawNow that the dust has settled, our collective heart rates have been stabilized, and , it’s time to look back at game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins with some perspective.

After 112:08 minutes of hockey, the Blackhawks went through cycles of good, bad and ugly play. Thankfully, the good was just good enough to earn them win number one, despite the Bruins throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them.

The Good:

Corey Crawford – NBC’s pregame crew had nothing but praises for Tuukka Rask. Crawford was a mere afterthought, getting nothing but a “he’s just as good” comment only because his stats were nearly identical to Rask’s, who shutout the Penguins in his two previous starts.

After Wednesday night’s performance, however, Crawford is no longer “just as good, “ or lukewarm. Crawford is the best goaltender in the league, and the frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He resurrected the Blackhawks from a near death experience against the Red Wings, and a very hot Jimmy Howard. He upstaged last year’s Conn Smythe winner, and one of the hottest goaltenders in the league, Jonathan Quick, in the Conference Finals. And now, he outlasted Rask it what seemed to be a game with no end, making a total of 51 stops, 35 consecutive after allowing the Bruins final goal early in the third period.

The Bottom Six – The Blackhawks depth has been a huge factor in getting them this far. While the top two lines, made up of the Blackhawks core, spent majority of the game fighting for possession of the puck against Milan Lucic and company, the bottom six skaters simply dominated the play. Whenever lines three and four hit the ice, there was sustained and consistent pressure on Tuukka Rask. So much so, in fact, that Zdeno Chara was sent out to try to contain Andrew Shaw’s line.

While rookie, Brandon Saad, opened Hawks scoring while skating with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, the remaining three goals, including the OT winner, came at the hands of the bottom six.

Their hard work and efficiency create scoring opportunities, mismatches, and a huge conundrum for Bruins coach, Claude Julien.

The Bad:

Chicago Blackhawks v Phoenix CoyotesBrandon Bollig dressed in favor of Viktor Stalberg for one reason: the Blackhawks wanted to increase their “tough” factor for game one. The Hawks certainly came out of the gates with something to prove. The hits were huge and plentiful, and the “non-physical” Hawks ended up outhitting the Bruins 61-59, delivering 13 hits in the opening frame alone.

That’s all fine and dandy, until going for the hit means you’re no longer going for the puck. The first period got the Blackhawks a little off balance. While the pace of the game was in the Hawks favor, the Bruins took advantage of the Hawks’ attempts to intimidate them.  The “hitting game” is definitely the Bruins game, and the Hawks are going to have a tougher time playing that style in this series.  Although the effort was impressive, the Hawks would be better off dictating the game by doing what they do best: controlling the puck.

“But mom! If I don’t hit him first he’s going to hit me!” – well, that kinds of attitude is going to get you nowhere but out of position. Just ask Niklas Hjalmarsson where he was during Milan Lucic’s first goal.

http://youtu.be/lzuWwv3n5Yk

The Ugly:

The Blackhawks Power Play was by far the ugliest thing about game one.  When the Blackhawks have a man advantage they become almost unwatchable. From sloppy zone entry, to dump and chase, to passing the puck around the perimeter without ever getting a shot on goal is unacceptable.

I’m not suggesting the Blackhawks should have gone 3/3 on Wednesday night, I’m merely suggesting they move around a little, make the defense work, and shoot the puck on net, especially during a 5 on 3. The squandered opportunities with a man advantage may end up costing the Hawks a game or two in this series.

If the Power Play continues to be absolutely useless, the Blackhawks Penalty Kill will have to remain flawless. The Hawks have only given up three PP goals during the playoffs. One of them was a Patrice Bergeron slap shot in the third period, giving the Bruins a two-goal lead at the time.

Heading into game two on Saturday, the Blackhawks need to stick to their game, keep firing on all four lines, and improve the horribly broken PP.

Despite being down two goals twice if the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blackhawks managed to dig deep, and muster out a victory. That’s just the way this team plays, when their backs are against the wall, they always find another gear, another level and another goal. Their resilience is undeniable.

I’m guessing the Bruins know they’re not in Pittsburgh anymore.

Follow on Twitter @MidwayJustyna

 

  • brennan barry

    Oduya. 180 from last postseason. game one performance was delish. goal, 5 hits, 7 block shots. good enough to earn some praise from Barry Melrose…not easy to do…