Chicago Blackhawks: Tuukka Rask

Video: The goal in attacking Rask

June, 21, 2013
By Staff

Game 2 proved this series is going the distance

June, 16, 2013
LeBrun By Pierre LeBrun

CHICAGO -- Nearly 10 periods of hockey through two games of the Stanley Cup finals and one thing is crystal clear.

There’s almost nothing to choose between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.

Five goals apiece and two overtime games, a series many expected to go the distance sure smells like it will.

"Two good teams playing in the finals," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said after his team evened the series with a 2-1 OT win. "It’s very even. You know, small things are usually going to decide those games."

Small things, like Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid pinching to stand up Brandon Bollig inside the Blackhawks' blue line, which forced a turnover and led to Daniel Paille's overtime goal 13:48 into the first extra session.

One little play, a good one by McQuaid, a mistake by Bollig, and that’s all that separated two great hockey teams on this night.

The smallest of margins will decide games in this series.

"Both sides felt it was going to be a tight series," said Blackhawks star forward Patrick Sharp, who scored his team’s lone goal. "Every shift is going to matter. And you saw it in this game, it is pretty evenly matched. I expect more of the same heading forward. ...

"Every shift is important. Every bounce is important. Momentum is definitely huge as well."

The Blackhawks had all the momentum early on in Game 2, outshooting the Bruins 19-4 in the opening period, definitely tilting the ice on the visitors, but getting only Sharp’s goal out of it.

"Well, we definitely were in survival mode there for a bit," said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who saved his team in the opening period. "It looked like they had more guys out there than we did. They were pouncing on every single puck in front of net, had a lot of chances. We definitely played pretty bad. But, you know, it was good that we were only down by one and regrouped after that."

Regroup the Bruins did, finding their legs and their style of game in the second period, eventually tying it on Chris Kelly's first of the playoffs at 14:58.

The Bruins outshot the Hawks 24-15 in the final two periods and overtime, gradually turning the tables on the Blackhawks, particularly in overtime, when Boston enjoyed most of the chances.

"I don’t think we played well enough to win that one in overtime at all," said Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook. "We played well in the game, but in overtime they had lots of chances."

The Bruins began the evening frustrated; the Hawks ended the night feeling the same way.

It’s a microcosm of what this series is already about: neither team able to dominate the other for an entire game, instead one team counterpunching the other. Both will get their stretches; whether they capitalize enough during those stretches will be key.

The Hawks’ speed game gave the Bruins fits in the opening 20 minutes, causing turnovers in the Boston zone and generating tons of chances and zone time. That’s Chicago’s game.

The Bruins countered with their trademark physicality, hitting every Chicago jersey in sight in the hopes of softening some Hawks players as the night went on. It appeared to work.

"They definitely came out with a lot of speed in the first period and we wanted to somehow change that," Paille said. "Playing physical is a part of our game where we've been successful. I think that's been huge for us. We started to pick up the pace after that."

Well, as Kelly pointed out, after being outshot 19-4, something had to be done, so why not go to their bread and butter: banging bodies.

"I figured we had to do something because we weren't doing much in that first period," said Kelly, laughing, after his team outhit Chicago 50-34. "We're a big, strong team. We want to finish our hits when they're there, try to wear teams down. We didn't really have the puck a whole lot. There was lots of times to hit. Maybe it was a little one-sided that way."

The question, though, is whether the turning of the tide in this game was simply because of Boston’s physicality or perhaps also because Chicago was guilty of taking its foot off the pedal after the opening period.

From the sidelines, it just seemed like the Hawks suddenly seemed content to nurse a 1-0 lead and stopped attacking in droves the way they had earlier.

"Scoring first was big, the building was into it, we were using our legs and skating and for whatever reason that didn’t sustain itself," said Sharp.

Hawks head coach Joel Quenneville stresses the importance of the defensive side of the game. His team is underrated for its ability to play on that side of the puck. But, to me, in this particular series, that plays into the hands of a grinding Bruins team that would like nothing else to make this about 2-1 hockey games.

Easier said than done, but I believe the Hawks have to use their most important asset -- team speed -- for 60 minutes of hockey to gain the upper hand on the Bruins.

"When you score a goal and are playing the way we were playing in the first period, you need to find a way to sustain that, and we didn't quite do that tonight," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews.

"No one said it was going to be easy," Toews later added. "No one said everything was going to go our way. Some moments, you feel pretty darn good, like when we won Game 1 and triple overtime, and tonight it doesn't feel good. You've got to find a way to get over it to move to the next time you're going to be on the ice, and not let it affect you."

The pressure now shifts to the Hawks, who need to win at least one game in Boston in this series if they’re going to win a second Stanley Cup in four years.

But just like you never got the sense the resilient Bruins were rattled one bit by their triple-OT heartbreaker in Game 1, I don’t think the Blackhawks -- who rallied from 3-1 down against Detroit -- are going to suddenly feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.

"I don’t think at this point either team is going to get upset with the word 'pressure,'" said Sharp. "There’s a lot of pressure being in the finals, both teams are excited to be here. We know it’s going to be tough, Games 3 and 4 in Boston. Dropping this one makes it that much more of a challenge. But we’ve got a day to regroup and recover and we’ll be ready to go."

Game 1 lived up to sky-high expectations

June, 13, 2013
Burnside By Scott Burnside

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.

Cup goalies have won respect

June, 11, 2013
McDonald By Joe McDonald
CHICAGO -- The masked men at opposite ends of the ice for the Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks have taken different paths in getting to this point.

The one common aspect between the Bruins' Tuukka Rask and the Blackhawks' Corey Crawford is both have played extremely well to help their teams reach the finals. When the puck drops for Game 1 Wednesday night at United Center, each goaltender will be focused on stopping the puck and not what the guy at the other end of the ice is doing in his crease.

Read the entire column.



Patrick Kane
32 15 17 8
GoalsP. Kane 15
AssistsP. Kane 17
+/-K. Versteeg 15
GAAC. Crawford 1.87