BOSTON – When they look forward to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final Wednesday night, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks will be viewing their fortunes from completely diametrically opposed perspectives.
The Bruins will harken back to the Eastern Conference final when they had a chokehold on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who swore up and down they’d be able to break the Bruins and bust out offensively. Pittsburgh never did and went out with a whimper. At this moment, the Bruins know they have never looked so big, so bad and so darn impossible to overcome.
The Blackhawks, on the other hand, will reflect on the second round when they were down 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings and Jonathan Toews was even more frustrated than he is now. They managed to pull that one out nicely and then buried the defending Stanley Cup champions in the West final.
“I know it’s ugly sometimes out there,” said Chicago’s Patrick Sharp. “People can look from the outside and say that the series is lopsided, but we’re in Game 4 and we’re in great shape and that’s our focus. I believe in the guys in this room, I believe in the coaching staff and it’s up to us to do it (Wednesday night).”
If it were only that easy, but at least the Blackhawks have a point of reference. The reality, though, is they have to be much better in Game 4 than they were in Game 3 and the last three periods of Game 2. The Blackhawks have put exactly one goal past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask in their past 62 shots - which gives Rask a .984 save percentage for those of you keeping score at home. The Blackhawks are getting killed in the faceoff circle, they’re being outmaneuvered in the matchups and have done nothing on the power play. Their entries into the Bruins zone with the man advantage have looked disorganized and they’re being beaten to loose pucks even though they have an extra player on the ice.
Other than that, things are looking great.
“I think we’re in a tough spot,” said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. “In the Detroit series we found a way to get ourselves back into it. That’s what we’re looking for. (Wednesday) is a very important game, like we have to win (Wednesday) night. Come up with a good result, we’re right where we want to be.”
The Bruins, meanwhile, are forcing the Blackhawks into all kinds of adjustments on the road. In Game 3, Quenneville went with a line of Jonathan Toews between Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik to keep him away from Zdeno Chara, but even when that happens, the Blackhawks still have to deal with Patrice Bergeron, who might be the best 200-foot player in the NHL today. The Blackhawks Big Three of Patrick Kane, Toews and Sharp have combined for two points, both coming on Sharp’s goal in Game 2.
“I don’t think we’ve targeted anybody that way,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said (and he said it with a straight face). “What we do as a team is we target the other team. What I mean by that is, we have to close the gaps quickly. Anytime a team has a transition game like the Chicago Blackhawks have - great skaters, speed, skill - it’s important we close quickly. If you just focus on one guy, you’re forgetting somebody else. That’s the approach we’ve taken. That’s the approach that works best for our hockey club.”
And so far it has worked to perfection. The next move belongs to the Blackhawks. The playoffs are all about making adjustments and if Chicago hopes to get back into this series, Wednesday night is the time for them to do that.
• Bruins center Gregory Campbell spoke publicly for the first time since breaking his leg in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final. When asked how he felt about the success linemate Daniel Paille is having without him, Campbell quipped: “I guess we found out the problem, me and ‘Thorty’ (Shawn Thornton) have been holding him back the last two years.”
• Campbell, by the way, doesn’t view his actions as anything out of the ordinary, despite the fact he stayed on the ice for 47 seconds to continue killing a penalty after having his leg broken. “It just goes to show you how tough you have to be to play in this league. There’s 700, 800 other players that are tough like that and play through things every day.”
• The Bruins won a whopping 40 of 56 faceoffs in Game 3, with Bergeron winning 24 of 28, but Sharp said the Blackhawk wingers had something to do with that. “It’s not just the centerman taking them,” Sharp said. “We went back and looked at it and there were a number of 50-50 pucks that we could have come up with as wingers.”
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.