Bruins: Andrew Shaw

Hawks' depth players make the difference

June, 13, 2013

CHICAGO -- Pretty sure if you would have told the Boston Bruins before Wednesday night’s marathon Stanley Cup opener that Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa would combine for just one assist, they would have drawn up a big W in their minds.

Ah, little did they know what Dave Bolland, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik and Brandon Saad had in store for them, the five supporting cast members combining for three goals and four assists as Chicago’s bottom-six forwards did most of the damage on this night.

"The checking guys ... those guys have been great for us all year and all playoffs," star blueliner Duncan Keith, still catching his breath, said after the triple-overtime 4-3 thriller.

So much has been written over the past few weeks about the deep, four-line Bruins, and that’s certainly accurate. It’s what has helped Boston get this far, being able to roll four lines with confidence and get contributions from varied sources.

What perhaps had not received as much national attention is a team in Chicago with just as much depth, and the Game 1 heroics of third-liners Bolland and Shaw, in particular, hammered home that point.

You’re not guaranteed a win against the Blackhawks, even if you shut down their top-six magic men.

"You always have your star players, but during the playoffs, it comes down to your depth and often to the players on the third and fourth lines," said Bolland, who for my money played his finest game of the playoffs Wednesday night.

Consider what transpired: The Bruins go up 3-1 on a beauty of a power-play goal by Patrice Bergeron 6:09 into the third period.

Game over, right?

Not so fast.

Bolland ripped a one-timer past Tuukka Rask less than two minutes later to cut the lead to 3-2, Shaw with the setup as well as the interception of the puck at the Bruins’ blue line moments prior.

The tying goal courtesy of John Oduya's point shot (off Andrew Ference's skate) was created thanks to a forecheck by fourth-liners Frolik and Kruger, their work in recovering the puck in the Bruins' zone and getting it back to the point the reason we had a tie game at 12:14 of the third period.

Finally, about two hours later in triple overtime, Michal Rozsival’s point shot was first tipped by Bolland and then bounced off Shaw for the winner at 12:08, capping a memorable night for the lesser-name players on Chicago’s juggernaut squad.

In other words, it felt like the kind of win the Bruins usually pull off.

"It was a grinding game out there," said Sharp. "It seemed like the third and fourth lines were creating stuff out there and contributing some big goals, none bigger than the one by Shawsy. I think it went off his pants or shin pads, but who cares at this point. We’ll take it."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville kept rolling his four lines in overtime, having no fear of putting out the fourth unit of Brandon Bollig-Kruger-Frolik, even if it was against one of Boston’s top two lines.

"All year long, they gave our team ... you're comfortable with them against any line in a defensive-line faceoff, matchups, very responsible," said Quenneville. "They had a lot of energy shifts. Seems like they would always start in our end, end in the other team's end. They haven't been together in a while, but it was like they played all year together today."

Credit Quenneville, who played a hunch in putting Bollig into the lineup instead of Viktor Stalberg, which pushed Bolland from the fourth line to the third line as a ripple effect. Both third and fourth lines had an impact. It’s the kind of result from a lineup decision a coach dreams of.

Particularly effective was the game’s first star, Shaw, who seemed to be everywhere on this night, tying for the team lead with nine hits while picking up two points (one goal, one assist).

"He's a competitor," said Quenneville. "He does things game in, game out. The bigger the stage, the bigger the challenge, he rises to the occasion. He knows where the front of the net is. Doesn't have to be pretty. He's a warrior. He's one of those guys that you appreciate he's on your side, and he's relentless."

Bruins coach Claude Julien is one of the most prepared bench bosses in the NHL, so it makes sense that he would be the last guy surprised by what Chicago’s supporting cast could do.

But one thing I’ve found over the years covering this game is that no matter how many meetings and video sessions you have with your team, the players hear what they want to hear. They have to live it before it really sinks in.

Now the Bruins players know full well that it’s going to take more than shutting down the big boys of Chicago to win the Stanley Cup.

CHICAGO -- In the moment when Michal Rozsival's point shot ricocheted first off teammate Dave Bolland's stick and then off Andrew Shaw's leg and past a helpless Tuukka Rask to bring this epic Stanley Cup final tilt to an end came two thoughts.

First: Thank goodness.

Second: Can we do that again? Now?

And again and again and again?

If Game 1 of the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, a 4-3 triple-overtime victory for the host Chicago Blackhawks, is any indication, the series the hockey world had been anticipating is going to deliver the goods. And then some.

After both conference finals fell far short in the drama department, Wednesday’s final-series opener delivered 112:08 of hockey at its most dramatic. A rollicking back-and-forth affair that left both players and fans limp with exhaustion.

"It’s fun being in the finals, the last two teams playing, all the hockey world is watching, and to be put an effort like that from both sides, it was fun to be a part of," Patrick Sharp said.

"And thank god it’s over," he added.

An elated Shaw managed to drop an F-bomb on NBC after his big goal, and then found it difficult later to put the experience into words.

"Emotions are high, but [I'm] too exhausted right now to express it," Shaw said.

Forget the idea that these two teams would require time to feel each other out; perhaps start in a cautious manner, as so often happens at the start of a playoff series. The Bruins and Blackhawks started this one in mid-stride, in full flight, if you will. And over the course of a little more than five and a half periods revealed the kind of character one would expect of two teams that have risen above the rest in this playoff spring.

Two battle-tested teams pushing forward, only to be pushed back.

The Bruins would strike first, and then again with two Milan Lucic goals.

And how much have the Bruins loved a lead? They never trailed in their four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals and were 8-2 this playoff year when scoring first and 5-0 when leading after the first period.

After rookie of the year nominee Brandon Saad tallied his first of the postseason to make it 2-1 early in the second period, the Bruins looked like they would coast to a Game 1 victory when Patrice Bergeron restored the two-goal lead with a laser on the power play.

It was the first power-play goal for the Bruins since Game 5 of the second round and only the fourth power-play goal the Blackhawks had allowed all spring.

But these Blackhawks are no strangers to adversity, having overcome a 3-1 series deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round. There is no crumble in that room.

They scored twice in 4:14 in the third period -- the tying goal coming off a Johnny Oduya shot that glanced past Rask off defenseman Andrew Ference's skate, setting the stage for a frenetic stretch of overtime hockey.

After tying the game, the Blackhawks appeared as though they would push the Bruins right out of Game 1 altogether.

In the first overtime, the Bruins held the decisive edge in play, with Corey Crawford having to come up big on chances by Shawn Thornton and Brad Marchand.

The Hawks had the better chances in the second overtime frame.

The Bruins twice had power plays thanks to too-many-men-on-the-ice calls against Chicago, one in the first overtime and one in the final minute of the second overtime. In those final seconds of the fifth period, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara’s point shot eluded netminder Crawford but hit the post.

In the third overtime, Kaspars Daugavins had a glorious chance for the Bruins. The winger, picked up on waivers from Ottawa early in the season, had the puck alone in front and Crawford down, but he could not find the back of the net, tripping to the ice as the puck skittered wide. Television cameras caught him with his head resting on the edge of the bench, a mixture of exhaustion and frustration.

"I was more frustrated that I missed it, and after I missed it I thought maybe a call because it was pretty obvious there was a stick in my foot. But you have to score those chances. You can’t let those slide by, especially in triple overtime," Daugavins said.

Moments later, Shaw would make that miss seem exponentially larger.

Punch, counterpunch.

Each team creating a chance, making a defensive play to deny a chance.

Reset. Then go again. Punch, counterpunch.

Chance for chance, hit for hit, save for save.

By the end of the night, Boston had been credited with 59 hits, Chicago 61.

They were virtually equal in faceoff wins and losses.

"I mean, both teams are just kicking, trying to survive. Every time you go back on the ice, you just try and get that feeling that it's just going to be that one chance that makes the difference," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said.

While the Bruins, who have never trailed in a series this spring, will need to regroup by Saturday's Game 2, there was still a sense of having been involved in something remarkable on this night.

"Think about it overnight and you realize we’ve been down a lot worse. It’s one game. It was a fun game to be a part of. It was great hockey out there," said Tyler Seguin, who assisted on the Bergeron goal. "By the end of those overtimes, I talked to a couple of guys on their team just saying, 'Someone end it, please.' The boys were getting tired."

A couple of hours before puck drop, commissioner Gary Bettman met with the media, and among the questions were several about the lockout that threatened at one point to scuttle the entire season. The show put on by the Bruins and Blackhawks made it seem as though the labor dispute was a bad dream.

"We said it was going to be a series like that, and [if] the first game’s any indication, we weren’t wrong," Thornton said. "We had our chances and all of those overtimes; rang one off the post on the power play at the end of the second overtime. It’s playoff hockey. It’s fun to watch. We’ll think about this 'til we get out of here, and then got to shake it off and get ready for Saturday."

The only shame is that we have to wait that long to see how the next one turns out.

Chirping never stops for Marchand, Shaw

June, 11, 2013
CHICAGO -- It wasn’t much of a surprise that two of the most entertaining interviews during Stanley Cup finals media day were with the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand and the Chicago Blackhawks’ Andrew Shaw.

Shaw was up first. Sitting at a podium with fresh cuts all over his face, Chicago’s 21-year-old center couldn’t wait to answer questions about Marchand.

“We’re both agitators,” Shaw said. “We both play physical and we’re always chirping. He’s perfected it, and that’s what I’m trying to do to my game. We both walk a fine line, and I’ve always looked up to him and admired him. It’s going to be great to actually play against him once.”

In the 2013 playoffs, Shaw has four goals and three assists for seven points; he has posted 26 penalty minutes and an even plus/minus rating. Marchand has four goals and nine assists for 13 points, plus 16 penalty minutes and a plus-7 rating.

When it was Marchand’s turn to sit at the microphone, most of the reporters at the United Center were focused on Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. Marchand was waiting, and while he was sitting there he grabbed someone's recorder and began to do play-by-play of the event.

As a scrum began to form around Boston’s "Little Ball of Hate," he was told of Shaw’s comments.

“What a nice guy he is,” Marchand, 25, said with a smile.

The Bruins forward was soaking in Shaw’s accolades as the NHL’s leading motormouth. The agitator role, and the players that fill it, are the type you want on your team but hate to play against. Marchand and Shaw are perfect in that category.

“We all need to find something we’re good at coming into the league, and that was a way for me to break in, and it’s the same with him," Marchand said. "He’s a good player. He’s come in and he’s playing hard. Watching games, he’s all over the place and getting some big goals, so that might just be something he needs to do to get in the league. We want to be better players than we do a pest, but you have to find something to do coming into the league.”

Like the 5-foot-9 Marchand, Shaw spent some time honing his chirping skills in the AHL before getting a chance with Chicago. Generously listed at 5-10, 180 pounds, Shaw will do his best to get under his opponent’s skin in order to draw a penalty and force another player to lose his focus.

“I’ve always played that physical role and it’s what got me here, so everyone lets me know to keep doing what got you here and it’ll give you a long career,” Shaw said. “I’m not a skilled guy. You don’t see me making great passes, or scoring a bunch of goals. I just work hard, go to the net as hard as I can and try to find one or two of those greasy goals.”

Shaw’s teammates, like Marchand’s, respect and value that agitator’s role.

“In our locker room, he’s talking a lot, and he has such energy,” said the Blackhawks’ Michal Handzus. “He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s always talking and in your face. He’s the same whether he’s in our locker room or on the ice. He’s playing with a lot of heart, a lot of emotion, and it’s fun to watch.”

Bruins face Blackhawks in Cup finals

June, 9, 2013

The Chicago Blackhawks beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in five games with a 4-3 double-overtime win to clinch the Western Conference and advance to the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, in which they will face the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins will once again likely be underdogs against the Blackhawks in the finals. While the Bruins proved the naysayers wrong against a similarly high-powered offense in the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Blackhawks bring a more balanced game to the table. The Hawks are loaded with offensive skill, but they also have a great blue line. They carry many of the same traits as the Bruins, and that's why this promises to be one of the best series in recent memory as well as the first Original Six finals since 1979.

Here are three things the Bruins and their fans should expect from the team that had the best start in NHL history this season by earning a point in 24 straight games:

1. The Hawks can light you up and shut you down: The Blackhawks finished tops in goals against in the regular season and second in goals for. They've got skilled forwards like Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and emerging power forward Bryan Bickell, who is tied with Sharp for second in playoff goals with eight, trailing only Bruins center David Krejci, who has nine. But much like the Bruins, these forwards start their offense with defense. Similarly to Bruins center and reigning Selke Award winner Patrice Bergeron, Hossa leads the way as the best two-way player on the roster. But the slight difference between the Bruins and the Blackhawks is that while the Bruins defense has become one of the better puck-moving groups in the playoffs, the Hawks defense has been doing that all season and is the best when it comes to transition. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith lead the transition game, but Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are right behind them in turning defense into offense while at the same time limiting chances in their own end. That's why Corey Crawford's 1.74 goals-against average is actually slightly better than Tuukka Rask's 1.75.

2. The Hawks bring finesse, grit and frustrating tactics: As witnessed in the first period of Saturday's Game 5, when they struck for two goals in 2:17, the Hawks can strike fast and furiously and possess plenty of skill and finesse. But they can also be physical. In addition to Bickell's prowess, they also have other bangers like Brandon Saad and Dave Bolland and bring a hard-hitting game every night. The Hawks have their own version of Brad Marchand in the pesky Andrew Shaw, who will be doing his best to agitate the Bruins' best players. It will be very interesting to see how Milan Lucic handles Shaw. The sometimes hot-tempered Lucic was successful in the way he dealt with Matt Cooke in the Eastern Conference finals by maintaining his physical presence but not crossing the line, and that will be key with Shaw.

3. Expect a chess match: The Blackhawks are well coached by Jack Adams Award candidate Joel Quenneville, who has a system in place that his players buy into and execute on the ice. Similarly to Bruins coach Claude Julien, Quenneville seems to have a pulse on his team and can adapt game to game, period to period and shift to shift, as evidenced by the way he handled his players' ice time in the overtime sessions in Game 5. Like Julien, Quenneville doesn't allow star power to take over in the dressing room and holds everyone equally accountable. Both of these teams play hard and play together. This series should be a classic.