Nobody would ever mistake a hockey player for a surgeon, but in game three of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins methodically sliced and diced the Chicago Blackhawks en route to a 2-0 shutout. Hockey is perhaps the most fluid of sports, a fact that that has driven the success of the smooth skating team from the windy city. In Wednesday night’s game however, the Bruins game plan looked like it was designed by Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck circa 2004. Every aspect of the Bruins game was precise and purposeful, and sent a particularly strong message about which of these two titans will dictate the tone for the rest of this series.
The Bruins are only in this fortuitous position as a result of the exemplary play of goalie Tuukka Rask. In the first two games Rask withstood the weight of a Blackhawks crowd spurred by the mad house on Madison.
In game three Rask was just another cog in the machine. His perfunctory play produced another shutout, and with the exception of Hawks near miss in the game’s waning moments, Rask wasn’t challenged as exhaustively as in the series first two tilts.
Chicago rarely was able to generate shots inside the dots or around the goal, and you get the sense that unless there is another mad scramble around the crease (like the one that allowed for Patrick Sharpe’s goal in game two), the Blackhawks could spend the rest of their summer trying to figure out how to score on Rask.
The Hawks lack of quality chances did not happen by accident. Boston’s forwards and defenseman alike were locked on to the Blackhawks when they were on the attack, and even though Chicago mustered 28 shots, none of them felt like they had a strong chance of going in.
After some dicey officiating granted the Blackhawks a startling five powerplays, Chicago managed only a few meek scoring opportunities. Throughout the game, the Bruins penalty kill swarmed, swatted, and stymed the dormant Blackhawks extra man unit at every turn.
With Boston working from the back end forward, the Bruins began to generate scoring chances. Even after the B’s squandered numerous chances in the first period, the Bruins remained calm (with the exception of furious Brad Marchand, who missed a short-handed breakway).
After yet another fantastic forcheck by the reborn third line of Paille, Seguin, and Kelly, the Bruins finally flood of chances caved in the dam that was Corey Crawford.
Nearly three minutes into the second period Kelly followed a Tyler Seguin miss and chipped the puck down behind the left side of the Blackhawks net to an eager Danie Paille . After a quick battle, Paille snared that same puck away from Dave Bolland, and quickly snapped a short-sided goal over the glove of Crawford.
The Bruins insurance goal was just as impressive. With a quick five on three powerplay opportunity, Jaromir Jagr glided down to the right side of the Blackhawks goal and waited for Patrice Bergeron to set up shop on the back door.
The Jagr proceeded to laser a pass through the Chicago defenders with such velocity and accuracy that Bergeron had time settle the puck and bang it off the post to put the Bruins up by 2 goals.
From there, the Bruins locked down their neutral and defensive zone, as Chicago struggled with a type of resistance that they seem to be ill-suited for.
The Blackhawks were playing on the road without Marian Hossa, who was a surprising (translation: soft) scratch, but does anyone really think Hossa would’ve made a difference in this game?
After surviving bad luck and sluggishness in Chicago, the Bruins were finally able to convincingly separate themselves in this series. Even when the Blackhawks frustration boiled over in the games last thirty seconds, the Bruins (Marchand and Chara) stood their ground and refused to let Chicago set the tone for game four.
Right now the Bruins have all the answers, and the Blackhawks are doing some soul searching for just the second time all year. This series isn’t done by a long shot, but after last night, Boston knows that if it can replicate it’s clinical dissection of Chicago from game three, they should be the last team standing.
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