The Chicago Blackhawks showed some resiliency in one of the most exciting games of the NHL playoffs. Down 3-1 in the third period the Blackhawks kept their cool and played the game that got them to the Finals and tied the game forcing overtime in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It took triple OT before the Blackhawks finally won it on a Rozsival shot that was deflected by Andrew Shaw.
The Blackhawks still have a tough task ahead of them but are proving they didn’t make it to the Finals just to get walked on by the Boston Bruins. The Bruins play a frustratingly efficient defensive game that has all 5 skaters gathering back and taking away passing lanes. The Bruins blocked 40 shots in Game 1 compared to the Blackhawks 23. Boston kept most of Chicago’s shots from outside the perimeter at low threat scoring chances, blocking most shots in the high success areas.
Game 1 had some uncharacteristic plays from the Bruins resulting in 24 giveaways, though ice conditions played a factor in mishandling of the puck on both sides.
One cause for concern for Blackhawks fans is the struggles on the powerplay, the top unit looks like it could be from an All-Star game yet has continued to struggle in the post season and went 0-3 last night including a lengthy 5 on 3. The Blackhawks need to simplify things and stop looking for the pretty play and start crashing the net.
The Bruins have only lost 2 straight games once in the 2013 playoffs (Game 5 and 6 to Toronto) and are expected to come out aggressive looking to bounce back.
Chicago had stepped up their physical game in Game 1 even outhitting the Bruins 61 to 59 yet it was more of a statement that Chicago won’t be pushed around by the Bruins, don’t expect them to alter their game plan to be more like Boston.
Watching the NHL media day prior to the Finals, Milan Lucic was hoping to have a better series than he did in 2011, and he came out and scored 2 goals and set up the third in Game 1. A motivated Lucic is bad news for the Blackhawks defense as he uses his strong legs to force his way into scoring areas, often going right through opposing defenseman.
The Blackhawks can win this series sticking to their game plan and not getting sucked into engaging in physical game especially after the whistles. Marian Hossa has shown his passion for winning, and it looks like he will be a difference maker in this series. Hossa was easily the Blackhawks best player in Game 1 often driving to the net strong on the puck and creating some of Chicago’s best scoring chances.
The fact that Boston has had Chara lining up against Hossa shows Julien knows just how dangerous he can be. Saad finally broke through his slump and netted his first of the playoffs, with the monkey off his back he took some regular shifts back on the first line with Hossa and Toews, look for that to continue in Game Two.
Both these teams know how to take away momentum from opponents at the perfect time. The Bruins won’t want another game where they need to produce 3+ goals to win so look for them to lean on their big defensive players and clog up the neutral zone with all forwards back checking.
If this series is anything like Game One, then this is shaping up to be one of the best Stanley Cup Finals. Chicago has all the tools and the right attitude to come out of this on top, now it’s time to execute.
Creator of the Bettman Stand Up hockey blog. I cover the Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers, In Hossa we trust! I also write for publications such as Arbitrage Magazine and Elite Sports Blog. You can follow me on Twitter @RickEmrith