Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2013 [Print without images]

Sunday, June 16, 2013
Five surprises in the Cup finals

By Craig Custance
ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- This much isn't surprising: The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins are two evenly matched teams that appear on the verge of giving us a Stanley Cup finals for the ages. Two games, four overtime sessions and one win each. It's about all you can ask for from the two teams remaining.

But after two games in Chicago, a few early surprises have emerged as this series shifts to Boston. Here's a look:

1. The team that's winning isn't leading: The Bruins never trailed against the Pittsburgh Penguins in their dominating performance in the Eastern Conference finals, so their ability to hold a lead is well-established. Chicago broke through in Game 1, winning in triple-overtime despite never holding a lead in the game. Boston did the same thing in Game 2, surviving a barrage of shots and pressure early from the Blackhawks to even the series in overtime.

In both games, the winner never led. Both teams found needed desperation when trailing, proving that a knockout punch is going to be hard to come by in this series.

"We wanted to go out there and give ourselves a chance," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic of Boston's approach after a rough first period in Game 2. "We were more desperate on pucks, trying to win pucks. Hunt the puck better and win more battles. I think we were able to do that more and more as the game went along."

Daniel Paille
Daniel Paille's game-winning goal came from Boston's bottom line.
2. Chicago is rolling four lines more effectively than Boston: Bruins coach Claude Julien shook up his bottom six a bit in Game 2, and the line of Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly and Tyler Seguin provided jump and ultimately the game-winning goal.

They helped spark a turnaround after the Blackhawks' huge start.

"At one point I thought that line would give us something. They responded well. Got both goals tonight," Julien said. "I put those three guys together and they answered."

But the injury to Gregory Campbell is making an impact on this series with Chicago getting more consistent play from its fourth line than the Bruins have, an edge Boston typically doesn't concede.

Shawn Thornton played just 4:56 in Game 2, his second-lowest total in the postseason. The last Boston goal aside, Chicago's fourth line of Marcus Kruger, Brandon Bollig and Michael Frolik has been effective for two games, with Frolik especially getting a number of quality scoring chances.

"Every time they were out there, they were a threat to score," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "Had a lot of offensive zone time. They got the one shift, around the wall, we didn't get there in time."

3. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are drawing the Bruins' top line: There hasn't been a better line in hockey than the Bruins' top threesome of Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton, so the assumption is that they would see a lot of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in this series.

That hasn't happened.

Quenneville is sending his Selke-winning center Jonathan Toews against the Krejci line, but Keith and Seabrook have been reserved for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr.

It was effective in Game 2, with the Bruins getting all of their scoring from their reconfigured third line, but it'll be interesting to see how the matchup changes in Boston, when Julien gets the last change.

Dave Bolland
Dave Bolland's ice time has been increasing as the playoffs have progressed.
4. Bolland is back: Dave Bolland was a main cog in the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup run in 2010, terrorizing opposing players with the ideal mix of defensive play and antagonism. Injuries slowed him down this season, and he didn't play against Minnesota in Round 1.

As the playoffs progressed, his ice time has grown from the 12-14 minutes he played against the Red Wings in Round 2 to the 28:21 he played in Game 1 against the Bruins. In Saturday's loss, he played nearly 20 minutes. His presence has given the Blackhawks a strong third line, skating alongside Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell. And in a series like this, it's going to be the play of third and fourth lines that make a difference.

5. Seguin and Jagr have combined for just one goal in the playoffs: Both Seguin and Jagr showed signs in Game 2 of breaking out of their goal-scoring slumps, with Jagr hitting the crossbar in overtime. Seguin clicked with his new linemates and may be on the verge of a breakout.

"He's playing great, he's just having bad luck," Jagr said. "Sooner or later, it's going to happen. Sometimes no matter what you do, it's tough to score right now. I know about it a lot. I'm in a deeper hole than he is."

Jagr said he's keeping his confidence up during his drought because he continues to get quality scoring opportunities. In addition to the shot that hit the bar, Corey Crawford had to make a nice save on a Jagr shot in the first period of Game 2.

"As long as you have the scoring chances, sooner or later, it's going to go in," Jagr said.