It's never easy to win a Stanley Cup.
When the Blackhawks won it in 2010, maybe it seemed too easy. That memorable season, the Hawks had their share of scares in the playoffs, but did it ever really feel like they wouldn't win? Not to me. The Hawks were so much better, so much deeper than any team in the NHL, it was almost a foregone conclusion. Sure, Nashville gave the Hawks a bit of a scare. Vancouver was feisty and annoying as well. The Hawks rolled over the San Jose Sharks, and the 2-0 series lead they built over the Philadelphia Flyers gave them room for error in that series.
This year...it doesn't feel quite as simple, does it? Again, the Hawks are the deepest team in the playoffs. They had the best regular season. But nothing about this series with the Boston Bruins is going to be easy. Tuukka Rask will see to that.
Despite the most dominant period of playoff hockey I've seen in recent memory, the Hawks were unable to solve Rask, and he out-dueled Corey Crawford in Game Two. Nineteen 1st period shots, and only one got past Rask. The Bruins were credited with four shots in that frame, and only attempted six. The Hawks could have (maybe should have) been up 3-0 when that 1st period horn sounded. Instead, it was 1-0, and the Bruins were only a shot away.
When that shot came, it was a different game. Chris Kelly's game tying goal, for all intents and purposes, allowed the Bruins to hit the reset button and start from scratch. The game was tied. The first period beat down didn't matter anymore. The Bruins, from that point on, took it to the Hawks. They were more physical. They dictated the play. They had the better chances in overtime.
Series tied 1-1.
Now, as we prepare for Game Three Monday night in Boston, we find ourselves looking for answers. If the Hawks can't score after dominating a period like they did, how can they do it in Boston on the Bruins home ice?
That's the million dollar question.
For starters, the Hawks can keep it simple, like they did in the 1st period Saturday. There was nothing fancy or advanced about their strategy. They took the chances that were given to them and drove the net hard.
How about a functional powerplay? When the Hawks finally enter the zone and get set up, they stand still. Patrick Kane held the puck for 3-4 seconds before deciding where to move. Good powerplays are constantly in motion. Even bad powerplays are constantly in motion. The Hawks just stand there, waiting for a lane to open up. No lane will open without movement.
I also don't understand why Joel Quenneville split up Kane and Jonathan Toews. Kane "only" managed four goals in the one and a half games Q had them together. The Kane / Michael Handzus combo isn't working. They're oil and water. Get Kane on the top line with Toews and Bryan Bickell (who's been his best with Toews as well). Move Hossa to the 2nd line with Patrick Sharp and Handzus, and have Brandon Saad on the 3rd line with Bolland and Shaw. That's what I'd do. Why coach away from chemistry? It doesn't make sense.
Speaking of things that don't make sense, can we please get Viktor Stalberg back in the lineup?
All this said, I picked the Hawks in six and I stand by it. They're the better team. At no point will the Bruins skate circles around the Hawks like the Hawks did in the 1st period Saturday. That shows you how wide the talent gap can be between these two teams.
It might not be pretty, but I still feel like the Hawks get it done.
~~Tune in to 670 the Score (670AM) when Game Three ends Monday night. I will be broadcasting from Boston's Sports Hub 98.5 FM studios.~~
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Filed under: Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Brandon Bollig, bryan bickell, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Sports, danny mac show, dave bolland, duncan keith, hockey, jay zawaski, joel quenneville, johnny oduya, jonathan toews, Marcus Kruger, marian hossa, Michael Handzus, michal rozsival, NHL, nhl playoffs, Patrick Kane, patrick sharp, sports, stanley cup, Stanley Cup Final, stanley cup finals, viktor stalberg, wscr