Boston Bruins’ goaltender Tuukka Rask has essentially shutout the normally high-scoring Chicago Blackhawks in what amounts to two straight games. In game three, he shutout the guys in the red sweaters 2-0 and going back to game two, he held them scoreless over the latter two periods of regulation and then through overtime.
Rask would be the first to tell you however that what he is doing is far from a solo venture. The Bruins since their game one triple overtime loss, have done an excellent job of limiting the ‘speed’ guys for Chicago. Patrick Kane has been suffocated by the larger, agile Bruins’ defenders to the point where often isn’t even noticeable on the ice.
Of course it didn’t help Chicago that Marian Hossa, who has three game-winning goals in the playoffs was a scratch prior to game three. Hockey of course is known for its’ ‘gamesmanship’ when it comes to injuries. Coaches need only to declare whether the injury is to the ‘upper’ body or the ‘lower.’ For all we know, Hossa’s injury which was declared as an upper body injury, could be a headache, a separated shoulder or cracked rib. No one but the Blackhawks know exactly what the injury is but Hossa is expected to be back tonight for the ‘Hawks.
With the Bruins being able to clamp down on Kane, Hossa’s absence was made greater by that issue.
The other area where Boston is giving Chicago fits is in the face-off circles. Although face-offs are often one of the more forgotten parts of a hockey game with so much else going on. Coaches and players will tell you that face-offs can dictate everything from power play success to penalty killing success. Right now the Bruins and in particular Patrice Bergeron are taking the Blackhawks to task on the dots. That has to improve or Chicago will continue finding itself in difficult situations regardless of where they are on the ice.
Of course I couldn’t break down the Stanley Cup Final without mentioning the Bruins’ dominance on the penalty kill either. Dating back to the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh, the Bruins have now killed off 27 straight man advantages for the opponent. Their playoff average on the penalty kill now rests at 87.1% and is yet another reason for their dominance over the last two games.
It may sound as if the Blackhawks are down 3-0 in this series, but the reality is they aren’t. They’re a win away from tying the series before returning home to the Windy City. The reason things look bleak is because of the way the Bruins have beaten them over the last two games. If Corey Crawford stands tall and then ‘Hawks can generate some offense early in the game then they can get right back in the series. I had Boston winning this in six games and I’m going to hold to that. I like the Bruins to win tonight, lose game five in Chicago and then return home to claim the Cup.
Other Hockey Tidbits… Apparently someone spilled coffee on one of Don Cherry’s ridiculous suits because he was in no mood to discuss the Penguin’s signing Evgeni Malkin to a $76 million deal. He called Malkin, a two-time Ross winner and one-time Stanley Cup Champion a “dog, a talented dog and a loser.” Malkin didn’t play well against Boston in the ECF but no one did offensively for the Pens either… Detroit has re-signed Pavel Datsyuk to a three year $22.5 million deal. There had been some discussion that Datsyuk would return to Russia to play in the KHL but they don’t pay quite as well.